Champion Hurdler Sea Pigeon dies

Sea Pigeon, the dual Champion Hurdler and Chester Cup winner, died on Tuesday at the age of 30. Sea Pigeon was one of the greatest hurdlers in the post-war era. He was also a high-class handicapper on the Flat. A son of the great Sea Bird II, Sea Pigeon was bred to win a Derby. In fact, trained by Jeremy Tree, he finished seventh to Morston in the Epsom Classic in 1973. He was also fourth in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Sea Pigeon, the dual Champion Hurdler and Chester Cup winner, died on Tuesday at the age of 30. Sea Pigeon was one of the greatest hurdlers in the post-war era. He was also a high-class handicapper on the Flat. A son of the great Sea Bird II, Sea Pigeon was bred to win a Derby. In fact, trained by Jeremy Tree, he finished seventh to Morston in the Epsom Classic in 1973. He was also fourth in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Sea Pigeon was purchased by Pat Muldoon, an Edinburgh wine and spirit merchant, and was initially sent into training with Gordon Richards before joining Peter Easterby. During the next five years, he developed into a top-class performer, winning 21 of his 40 races over jumps, and a career total of 16 of 45 starts on the Flat.

A difficult horse, who had to be covered up and produced at the last possible moment and needed fast ground, Sea Pigeon won two Scottish Champion Hurdles (1977-78) but seemed to be destined never to win the Champion itself. Although he stayed two and a quarter miles on the Flat - he won two Chester Cups, and an Ebor Handicap when he put up an astonishing performance to beat Donegal Prince (who was receiving 35lb) by a short head - Sea Pigeon appeared not to stay the two miles and 200 yards of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, especially in the mud.

However, in 1980, the course and distance of the race was shortened to two miles and, at the age of 10, Sea Pigeon won the Champion Hurdle, inspiring one of Peter O'Sullevan's many legendary race commentaries. "It's the old man Sea Pigeon, he's won it at last," O'Sullevan exclaimed as Sea Pigeon avenged his previous year's defeat by Monksfield.

The following year, ridden by John Francome with a confidence that transgressed the border on to arrogance, Sea Pigeon cantered past his rivals in the last 50 yards to record an effortless victory.

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