Racing: Aintree mourns One Man

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The Independent Online
JOHN HALES was watching the Mumm Melling Chase from the front of the Queen Mother Stand here yesterday when he saw his One Man crash through the ninth fence. When he spoke he asked a companion if the horse was all right. He knew he wasn't. It was the end.

One Man's humane destruction ended one of the more compelling careers of recent turf history. The grey won 20 races and almost pounds 460,000 in prize money, yet those impressive figures told only a portion of his story. Despite his manifest brilliance, One Man attracted more criticism than perhaps any horse of his ability ever has. Two abortive attempts on the Cheltenham Gold Cup persuaded many to speculate this was a horse without the stomach for a battle.

This supposed coward nevertheless managed to win a Hennessy Gold Cup and two King George VI Chases over journeys that were revealed as being outside his optimum range. Perhaps his greatest moment came at Cheltenham last month when he collected a Queen Mother Champion Chase and displayed that this fleet-footed athlete had been asked to hurt himself several times over unsuitable distances.

At every turn Hales defended his maligned property and, as his protector, he became particularly close to the horse. That made One Man's parting even harder to take yesterday.

There was no threat of the horror to unfold as One Man vaulted thrillingly in the early stages of yesterday's contest. He stood off several of his fences magnificently until he reached the ninth obstacle. It could have been that he suffered a heart attack as he went into the fence, but the most likely explanation was that he broke his right hind tibia, the long bone which joins the stifle to the hock, in his cataclysmic fall. The injury he sustained is rare and unmendable. He was put out of his misery.

There was deep sorrow too for One Man's trainer, Gordon Richards, a man in the twilight of his career who has nurtured many fabulous horses over fences. He loved them all, but the one he loved most was One Man. "One Man proved a champion in his last race and that is how he'll be remembered," Nicky Richards, the trainer's son, said. "He was one of the greats and my father's favourite."

Fantastic Fleet will earn only a footnote in comparison with One Man, but he did not know he was an inferior athlete to the grey and he too was someone's favourite. The six-year-old's life was also taken in this parish of Merseyside when he somersaulted sickeningly at the seventh obstacle of the National course in the Foxhunters' Chase. He landed dead at the base of the fence with a broken back.

Caragh Bridge fractured ribs in that contest and was taken to the Leahurst Veterinary College, while Arctic Life suffered a suspected fractured neck which was diagnosed as being treatable.

There were casualties too among the amateur riders of this Balaclava of a contest. Ollie McPhail, one of the leading protagonists at this level, was the principal sufferer when he was unseated from Blue Cheek at The Chair and kicked around by a forest of hooves. McPhail sustained head injuries and was taken to Fazakerley Hospital. He regained consciousness during the course of the journey.

The actual competition at Aintree was a success for the Irish, who pocketed four races. The most notable was that of Opera Hat in One Man's race, but it is not an encounter that will be remembered for her win. Connections of the mare could not celebrate extensively and understood the race's real significance. "It was very sad what happened, the grey took an awful fall." John Fowler, the trainer, said.

Conor O'Dwyer, the man at the controls, reported: "Opera Hat's not the biggest horse in the world but one of the bravest. She's a super mare but I'm very sad to hear of the death of One Man." Everyone will be.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

NAP: Suny Bay

(Aintree 3.45)

NB: Lake Kariba

(Aintree 2.20)

ONE MAN

Foaled: 1988.

Breeding: By Remainder Man out of Steal On.

Bought: 4,000IRgns as an unraced three-year-old. Raced over hurdles for Arthur Stephenson and was then sold for 68,000gns at the late trainer's dispersal sale in 1993.

Owner: John Hales

Trainer: Gordon Richards

Races: 35

Wins: 20

Prize money earned: pounds 459,000.

Principal wins: 1994: Reynoldstown Novices' Chase (Ascot), Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup (Newbury); 1996: King George VI Chase (Sandown), Charlie Hall Chase (Wetherby), King George VI Chase (Kempton); 1997 Charlie Hall Chase (Wetherby), Peterborough Chase (Huntingdon); 1998: Comet Chase (Ascot), Queen Mother Champion Chase (Cheltenham).

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