Sprinter Sacre: star chaser will not be among the stars on show on SundayPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Sprinter and Darlan to miss Sunday races
DETERIORATING conditions at Cheltenham have cost Sunday's fixture two of its star attractions, Sprinter Sacre and Darlan.
There was no further rain on top of the 6mm that fell overnight and into Saturday morning but the ground at the close of play on Saturday had been eased to soft, heavy in places.
That was enough for Henderson to draw stumps as regards two of his stable stars: Sprinter Sacre, last season's Arkle winner who was set to make his seasonal reappearance in the Shloer Chase, and Darlan, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle runner-up who was 11-4 for the Racing Post Hurdle.
"We want to make a decision tonight and not leave everyone waiting to the morning: Sprinter Sacre is not going to run," Henderson said.
"I'm sorry, I wanted to run him but it's only three weeks to the Tingle Creek and he'd get there without a run. It just seems crazy to ask him to run in this. Sadly the ground has gone against him and I don't want to jeopardise the Tingle Creek."
Later on Saturday evening Henderson also announced the defection of Darlan.
He said: "Darlan will not run. The most important thing tonight was to make the decision. No one is going to say they don't go in very soft ground, but they're young and they don't need hard races in soft ground at this stage of the season.
"I want to emphasise we are sorry but the horses come first. Both owners [of Darlan and Sprinter Sacre] and jockeys agree and it wasn't a very difficult decision.
"I always said this was the target for Darlan and I would have run if that had been possible. He's in at Newcastle [the Fighting Fifth] and there's Cheltenham later [the International].
"The horse is very fit and very well. The only decision tonight was whether to run, we'll decide what next on Sunday."
Clerk of the course Simon Claisse said Sprinter Sacre's withdrawal was "disappointing but understandable".
He added: "I don't think it will dry out much with the sort of conditions we've had." No further rain is forecast before racing on Sunday.