Top Irish trainer Willie Mullins has paid tribute to “legend” and Cheltenham Festival regular Wicklow Brave after he suffered a fatal fall in the American Grand National at Fair Hills.
The 10-year-old had a terrific career, winning 17 of his 59 races and amassing earnings of more than £944,000. His biggest success on the flat came 2016 Irish St Leger where he got the better of top class stayer Order Of St George.
Wicklow Brave also enjoyed multiple big races successes over hurdles, landing County Hurdle at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival and the 2017 renewal of the Punchestown Champion Hurdle. The tenacious son of Beat Hollow also went down all guns blazing at this year’s Cheltenham Festival back in March when beaten just a short-head by Willima Henry in the 25-runner Coral Cup.
He appeared to be the verge of adding another notable win to his record in the American Grand National when he fell at the last on Saturday. Officials at the New Jersey venue later confirming Wicklow Brave had fractured his shoulder and had to be euthanised.
Closutton handler Mullins, the most successful in the history of the Cheltenham Festival tweeted: “I would like to pay tribute to Wicklow Brave, who was a real legend in our yard.
“A career like his will probably never be replicated, going from bumpers to hurdles, back to the Flat and then chasing.
“His best day was winning the St Leger. However, winning the Punchestown Champion Hurdle with (son) Patrick on board to put us ahead in that memorable trainers’ title battle will be remembered around here for a long time.
“He will be missed by Wicklow Bloodstock’s Nick Peacock, Jason Dear – who rode him every day and looked after his every need – and all at Closutton.”
Frodon and Kalashnikov Set for Aintree Battle
Star chasers Frodon and Kalashnikov are set to clash in the Grade 2 Monet’s Garden Old Roan Limited Handicap Chase over 2m 4f at Aintree this Sunday, 27 October (3.00pm).
The Paul Nicholls trained Frodon and regular rider Bryony Frost created history in the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival earlier this year when Frost became the first female jockey to win at the highest level at the four-day extravaganza.
Frodon and Frost began last season with victory in this contest and a memorable campaign also saw them capture the Grade 3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and Grade 2 Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham. Kalashnikov has Frodon’s Ryanair Chase crown as his long-term objective and Amy Murphy’s stable star will be in receipt of a stone from his more experienced and battle hardened rival this weekend.
The six-year-old also excelled over the course and distance last season when defeating top mare La Bague Au Roi in the Grade 1 Devenish Manifesto Novices’ Chase at the RGrand National Festival in April.
Murphy said: “The Old Roan is the plan for Kalashnikov. He is in very good form and enjoyed his summer holidays. He did well over the summer and we have been pleased with his preparation.
“The Ryanair Chase is the long-term dream, but that is a way off yet. Aintree looks a good starting point and we’ll see how he gets on there before mapping out the rest of his season.”
RSA runner-up Santini ruled out of Ladbrokes Trophy
Lambourn-based handler Nicky Henderson has ruled the Ladbrokes Trophy out for his highly promising chaser Santini.
The seven-year-old, who ran a blinder when last seen in action at the Cheltenham Festival and beaten just 3/4 of a length by Topofthegame in the Grade 1 RSA, had been ante post favourite for the valuable Newbury contest.
However, Henderson believes the hurly-burly nature of what was the Hennessy Gold Cup would not be suitable and is instead eyeing a potentially easier comeback option at Sandown. It’s the same route that he took with Might Bite a couple of years ago, and in my eyes is a shrewd move given that Santini has only had three starts over fences and undoubtedly has a huge future over the larger obstacles.
Indeed, he is currently joint-third favourite in the ante post betting for the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup for which he is 10/1 with William Hill.
He told At The Races: “The Virgin Bet Future Stars Intermediate Chase seems an obvious starting point for him, because he has not got a lot of experience.
“I didn’t think about the Ladbrokes Trophy for him, because he has only had three runs over fences, and I think he would be short of experience for that.”