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.

Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living