Racing: Red tape denies Best Mate a racecourse burial

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Jim Lewis, Best Mate's owner, had wanted the triple Gold Cup winner to be buried at the track where he had signalled the greatness to come with his first steeplechase victory and where the story came to a close with his death from suspected heart failure after pulling up in the Haldon Gold Cup on Tuesday.

However government regulations, rigidly adhered to since the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001, will prevent that tribute.

Instead, Best Mate is to be cremated, probably today. "Then we will have a memorial service for him next week when we commit the ashes," Lewis said.

"We'll have to draw a line and it's someone else's chance to have a good old dream now."

Exeter's managing director, Geoffrey Billson, added: "We tried very hard to meet the wishes of the owner to have the animal buried here rather than cremated. But under European legislation and the Fallen Stock Act, sadly, we cannot do that."

Lewis was moved by the extensive coverage Best Mate's death received in the media. "Today seems a bit empty, but we've had loads of messages, messages from all over the world, and it is very moving and great support as well."

Although in life Best Mate may not have achieved the same respect for his achievements as Arkle, despite winning the same number of Gold Cups, in death he is to be placed on a pedestal at the scene of their greatest triumphs.

Cheltenham's managing director, Edward Gillespie, said: "His achievements are up there with Golden Miller [five times Gold Cup winner] and Arkle."

That illustrious pair, along with Dawn Run, sole winner of the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup, are the only horses to be honoured by Cheltenham with statues.

"What I'm very conscious of is that, unlike Desert Orchid, we've all been denied that wonderful roadshow of him in retirement. I believe there is significant appetite for a permanent memorial to Best Mate and that would be a physical memorial so people could go and see him."

Gillespie would also like to name a race at Cheltenham in Best Mate's honour. "It is really a matter of finding a race which does the horse's reputation and standing justice."

Tony McCoy yesterday added his own valediction for Best Mate. "I was lucky enough to have ridden him in two King Georges and won once," the champion jockey said. "He was the best steeplechaser we've seen around for a long time and for that to happen to him was very sad.

"Arkle won three Gold Cups and it was a long time before another horse came along to achieve the same as he did. It will be a long time before we see a horse who can achieve what Best Mate did."