Racing: One Man's death overshadows National

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The Independent Online
THE Grand National will not be the same today. The world's greatest steeplechase will be run at Liverpool under a pall following the death of Britain's most notable jumping horse.

One Man died at Aintree yesterday. The successor to Desert Orchid as a great grey which bestrode the National Hunt scene broke a leg and had to be destroyed. His death cast a cloud over the whole meeting.

The Mumm Melling Chase had been characterised by One Man's trademark extravagant vaulting until the field reached the ninth fence. The grey put in a short stride and crashed sideways through the final obstacle of his career. Ominously, the screens were immediately erected around the stricken body.

"It was an extremely serious fracture, an unmendable fracture and for that reason he was put down on humane grounds," Paul Webbon, chief veterinary adviser to the Jockey Club, said. "There are two possibilities. The force of take-off could have caused it, but it's more likely it was the way he landed over the fence."

Brian Harding, One Man's jockey, returned to the weighing room in tears, and his owner, John Hales, whose company produces the Teletubbies toys, had to be helped sobbing into a first aid room. "I can't say anything," he said. "I'm too devastated." The body of One Man will be taken back to Hales's Telford home for burial.

Gordon Richards, One Man's 67-year-old trainer, has been ill and was making his first visit to a racecourse yesterday for a month. His son Nicky said: "This is the worst day ever. Dad is very upset. He is going to see Mr Hales and after he's spoken to him he is going to go home."

David Nicholson, another leading trainer, said: "He was a lovely horse, the trainer's favourite. He rode him out and adored him. It's terribly sad for all concerned and it's spoilt my Liverpool."

One Man was the highest money-earner in National Hunt training. The one big prize that had eluded him was a Cheltenham win, but only two weeks ago he won the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the National Hunt Festival.

Richard Dunwoody, the former champion jockey, was One Man's regular pilot until this year. "He was one of the best two and a half mile chasers I ever rode," Dunwoody said. "He had a lovely way about him and he was a brilliant ride. When I was holding him up at Cheltenham in the Gold Cups I wasn't able to use his jumping. But on the last occasion at Cheltenham he showed just how brilliant he could be."

Tony McCoy, the champion jockey, said: " Everyone in racing is gutted. He was a special horse, a bit like Desert Orchid."

One Man's race was not run over the National's fierce fences. However, the race which was, the Foxhunters' Chase, saw one horse, Fantastic Fleet, killed and others suffer appalling falls. Six horses fell, eight unseated their riders, one was brought down and one refused. One jockey, Ollie McPhail, suffered head injuries but regained consciousness on his way to hospital.

Yesterday's events will reignite the debate over whether the sport's death toll is unacceptably high. Animal rights protestors are a regular feature of the National and those who attend today will have further fuel for their arguments.

A miserable day at Aintree was compounded when the County Stand had to be cleared after the third race, raising the spectre of 12 months ago when the Saturday National had to be abandoned following bomb warnings from the IRA. On this occasion, though, the evacuation was caused by a technical fault in a fire alarm.

Earlier in the day there had been a controlled explosion in the weighing room following the discovery of a briefcase. A police patrol at 4am found the bag, which transpired to have been left behind by a jockeys' valet.

The engine compartments and boots of all vehicles will be searched on arrival today and spectators will be asked to go through one of 55 airport- style archways and X-ray machines placed around the course.

Up to 60,000 people are expected and they could bring chaos. At the peak point yesterday it was taking an hour and a half to clear the security queue.

The favourite for today's race is likely to be Rough Quest, who is trying to become the first horse since Red Rum to win the race twice. Last year's runner-up, Suny Bay, is attempting to become the first grey since 1961 to win the race. The grey in most racing people's minds today, however, will be the one that perished on Aintree's fields.