Racing: Gait's heart gives way in comeback

A BRIEF career over hurdles and a lifelong alliance with intrigue ended yesterday when Royal Gait, the champion hurdler, collapsed and died at Leopardstown.

The gelding, owned by Sheikh Mohammed and trained by James Fanshawe, is thought to have suffered a heart attack after the Bookmakers' Hurdle, in which he finished fourth to Novello Allegro. The race, his first since winning at the Festival in March, was only the fifth of Royal Gait's jumps career.

The suggestion that all was not well with the nine-year-old came when he faded after the last obstacle. 'The sad part is that Graham (McCourt, Royal Gait's jockey) said he had felt as good as he was at Cheltenham as they came to the final flight,' Jim Lenehan, the assistant manager at the Sheikh's Kildangan Stud in Co. Kildare, said. 'But when he didn't pick up he was easy on him knowing that he needed the race.'

McCourt himself reported how Royal Gait deteriorated in a matter of strides. 'I was absolutely swinging off him turning for home, but he began to lose his action three strides before the last,' the jockey said. 'At first I thought he had blown up or even broken down, but as soon as we got to the line I realised he was going to keel over with me and just hopped off in time.'

Royal Gait will go down as having had one of racing's more eventful careers, and if any horse has had the pleasure of lying on shredded newspaper of his own stories, the odds are that it is him.

Purchased as a two-year-old for 5,500 gns at the Doncaster Sales, the horse was first sent to Spain, where he collected races and trainers in abundance. He won for seven different handlers, but made his name internationally only when he won the Prix du Cadran at Longchamp as a four-year-old.

Competition in France became more frequent when Royal Gait was switched to the Chantilly stables of John Fellows, but it was in Britain that his most notable moment came, in the Ascot Gold Cup of 1988.

Having proved he was demonstrably the best horse in that race, Royal Gait, under Cash Asmussen, was disqualified by the stewards for causing interference, a decision which ranks among racing's greatest bungles.

Sheikh Mohammed subsequently bought the horse, but never managed to run him on the Flat as the gelding was struck down by a leg injury and retired.

A pensioner's life did not agree with Royal Gait and he became sufficiently frisky after three years away from the racecourse to earn a return to action, based at the Newmarket yard of James Fanshawe.

'It's a devastating blow for the stable and the owner,' the trainer said yesterday. 'Royal Gait gave me the best day of my racing career at Cheltenham last March.'

Royal Gait, who became the first novice since Doorknocker in 1956 to win a Champion Hurdle, was also the oldest victor since Sea Pigeon in 1981. Following the recent eclipses of Morley Street and Kribensis, he had been seen as the likeliest past winner to lift hurdling's crown again in March.

The bookmakers now expect a new and younger name to be on the trophy. Yesterday's amendments mean the ante-post market is dominated by Halkopous and Mighty Mogul, who was cut to 5-2 favouritism by both Coral and William Hill.

LEOPARDSTOWN (2m, Bookmakers Hurdle): 1. NOVELLO ALLEGRO (C Swan) 6-1; 2. Muir Station 7-1; 3. Crowded House 6-1. 7 ran. head, 4. 11-10 fav Royal Gait (4th). (N Meade, Navan). Tote: pounds 7.40; pounds 2.60, pounds 2.50. Reverse forecast: pounds 27.60. Computer Straight Forecast: pounds 41.20.

CHAMPION HURDLE (Cheltenham, 16 March): Coral: 5-2 Mighty Mogul, 4-1 Halkopous, 10-1 Destriero, Granville Again & Vintage Crop, 12-1 Morley Street & Staunch Friend, 16-1 others; Ladbrokes: 3-1 Mighty Mogul, 4-1 Halkopous, 10-1 Staunch Friend & Vintage Crop, 12-1 Flown, Granville Again & Morley Street, 16-1 others; William Hill: 5-2 Mighty Mogul, 4-1 Halkopous, 8-1 Vintage Crop, 10-1 Destriero, Morley Street & Staunch Friend, 12-1 Granville Again, 16-1 others.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week