Racing: Niche killed in freak accident

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NICHE, one of the outstanding horses of the season, was killed in a freak accident yesterday after bolting on the gallops of her trainer, Richard Hannon.

The filly, runner-up in the 1,000 Guineas and an emphatic winner at Newmarket last month, died instantly when running on to a road and colliding with a van. Hannon had been preparing her for another crack at Europe's top milers in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville on Sunday week.

'She caught the edge of the all-weather gallop, stumbled and went down, her lad going over the top,' Hannon said. 'I went after her but then she crossed a minor road, which normally wouldn't see 10 cars between 7am and 4pm.

'It was a million to one chance. My blacksmith was travelling slowly up the road and the filly crashed into his van. She died within a minute. She was one of the best I've trained. I still cannot believe it's happened.'

Niche was bred and owned by Lord Carnarvon who is currently in the United States. His daughter, Lady Carolyn Warren, said: 'She was such a gutsy filly, very brave and gave us a tremendous amount of pleasure. It is a major loss for us and must have been horrible for Richard Hannon to be at the scene.'

The threat of fast ground could cost Risky, one of Hannon's top two-year- olds, her chance in the Heinz '57' Phoenix Stakes at Leopardstown on Sunday. The dual Group winner will be diverted to either the Lowther Stakes at York or Prix Morny at Deauville unless the going is good or softer. There is little chance of that according to the local weather forecast.