Cecil horse dies after Royal Ascot win

Elation turns to sadness as colt suffers heart attack the day before Sir Henry's funeral

A week that had orchestrated the full range of emotions yesterday produced the cruellest of codas as the four-year-old colt Thomas Chippendale collapsed and died from a heart attack shortly after his stirring, victorious battle for the Hardwicke Stakes. The loss of a horse in action is always to be regretted but that this one had just been cheered home as a second Royal Ascot winner for the stable of the late Sir Henry Cecil made his sudden demise the more poignant.

Thomas Chippendale, now under the care of Cecil's widow Jane, led his rivals from halfway along the home straight, repelling first his own stablemate, Noble Mission, and finally Dandino, to take the Group 2 prize by a length. As he eased down to a trot after the finish, his rider Johnny Murtagh realised something was amiss and jumped off. "I felt him do a little shimmy," he said. "He won so well, and I'm devastated the way it has finished."

The funeral of Cecil, who trained a record 75 winners at this meeting and who died 12 days ago, is tomorrow in Newmarket. A harrowing time for those at Warren Place was briefly lightened by success for the filly Riposte in the Ribblesdale Stakes on Wednesday, but fate is no respecter of feelings.

"The horse was doing what he enjoyed," said Lady Cecil, visibly shaken by the turn of events, "and would not have won so bravely like that if he was not. But it's heartbreaking, going from one emotional extreme to another."

The man who will feel the loss of Thomas Chippendale more than any is groom Luis Villarroel, who looked after him at home day by day. And much as he loved his charge, who was a smart, honest performer but not a superstar, he put the animal's death in perspective. "Things like this happen in this sport," he said, "and it is hard when it does, to a lovely honest horse like him. But not as hard as the past weeks have been. We are strong, though, and we will keep working, keep fighting and do our best for the team."

Before the shocking aftermath, the mile-and-a-half race had already provided drama as the favourite Ektihaam, galloping strongly in the lead, slipped on the first bend and threw rider Paul Hanagan over the running rail as he struggled to keep his feet. The horse was unscathed; Hanagan walked away from his crashing fall but, sore and shaken, missed the rest of his day's rides.

The day's centrepiece, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, provided a well overdue first Group 1 win for one of the weighing room's most talented grafters, Adam Kirby. According to the table for the jockeys' championship, which is based rather arbitrarily on the late March to early November turf season, Kirby is 14th. But since the start of the year, which includes the less-than-glamorous winter all-weather circuit shunned by some of the star names, only Ryan Moore has ridden more domestic winners than the 24-year-old from Norwich.

In the £500,000 six-furlong dash, Kirby gave 11-1 chance Lethal Force a masterful, if not entirely intentional, front-running ride, in complete control through the last quarter mile. The four-year-old won by two lengths with his ears pricked, vainly chased by old rival Society Rock, the 2011 winner and 4-1 favourite yesterday. The best of the overseas raiders was third-placed 25-1 shot Krypton Factor, from Bahrain, who eclipsed higher-profile challengers from Australia and the States.

Lethal Force, who had been beaten a head by Society Rock when the pair made their seasonal debuts at York last month, is a welcome upwardly mobile young presence on the sprinting scene. "I had thought I might drop him behind rivals early on," said Kirby, "but he hit the gates spot on and right from then was doing it all so easily. He has such a high cruising speed and is getting better. Last year he was just a frame but he is so much more solid now."

The next top-level sprint on the circuit is next month's July Cup at Newmarket, but the grey, a €8,500 (£7,250) auction bargain as a yearling for owner Alan Craddock, may miss the rematch there with Society Rock. "I'm not sure that track would suit him," his trainer, Clive Cox, said, "but we'll think about it after we see how he comes out of today."

Four winners earlier in the week gave Aidan O'Brien the meeting's trainers' title. The top jockey was Murtagh, who notched his clinching fourth on the ill-fated Thomas Chippendale, and is the first rider who also holds a trainer's licence to win at the meeting since the 19th century figure Tom Cannon.

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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?