Demise of Holly casts dark cloud

JUST AS punters and racegoers were rediscovering the exhilaration of National Hunt racing, there was a reminder yesterday of its dangers too, and how suddenly old friends can be snatched away. French Holly, one of the finest hurdlers of recent years, was killed in a schooling accident at his yard only a week after he had embarked on the chasing career which had promised to be his true vocation.

JUST AS punters and racegoers were rediscovering the exhilaration of National Hunt racing, there was a reminder yesterday of its dangers too, and how suddenly old friends can be snatched away. French Holly, one of the finest hurdlers of recent years, was killed in a schooling accident at his yard only a week after he had embarked on the chasing career which had promised to be his true vocation.

French Holly won the Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton in 1998, and finished third to Istabraq in the Champion Hurdle last March. He earned £230,000 racing over timber, yet still looked every inch a chaser, and duly won by 18 lengths on his first start over fences eight days ago.

This prompted a quote of 16-1 for the Gold Cup, which would normally be a wild over-reaction for such an inexperienced horse. In French Holly's case, the price looked reasonable.

"It happened in schooling," Ferdy Murphy, French Holly's trainer, said. "Andrew Thornton was here riding him and the horse came down and snapped his neck and was killed instantly. Everyone is devastated. The vet who has looked after him since he came here was here, and she is gutted. He will be very hard to replace."

The death of French Holly may darken the mood when the solid jumping folk gather today, in Ireland as well as England. The race of the day is the inaugural running of the £100,000 James Nicholson Wine Merchant Champion Chase at Down Royal, in which Florida Pearl sets out on the long trek towards the Gold Cup in March. Perennial rival Dorans Pride is again among his opponents, while Strong Promise, runner-up in the 1998 Gold Cup, is the sole runner from Britain. Florida Pearl should win, but the price is unlikely to be generous.

Top event over jumps in Britain is the Badger Beer Chase, won 12 months ago by Teeton Mill, on the way to success in the Hennessy and King George. It would be too much to expect another chaser of equal potential to emerge today, but horses like Rash Remark, successful in a novice event two weeks ago, and Marlborough (2.15), who makes his first start for Nick Henderson, should pay their way. The latter has failed to compete on three of his last six starts, but due to misfortune rather than poor technique.

Master Beveled (3.15), an underrated hurdler given his earnings record, could have one more win in him, while Auetaler (2.00) and Lady Cricket (2.30) are likely to give Martin Pipe a double in the big races at Chepstow.

On the last day of the Flat season at Doncaster, the handicap for amateur lady riders will be the unlikely medium of one of the day's biggest punts, as Best Of All (1.25) becomes the last horse to be saddled by Jack Berry before he hands his Cockerham stable on to his son, Alan. Berry said yesterday that "I think she has got a big chance," and that should be as much of a hint as anyone needs.

FLOSSY (nap 3.35), with Tony Beech taking a very useful 5lb off his burden, looks a sound bet in the November Handicap. Badaayer (2.30) and Shahrur (next best 3.00) should also manage one last victory before the curtain comes down.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Development Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Service and Installation Engineer

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: SEO / Outreach Executive

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a global marketin...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Estimator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?