Sceptical, Ireland's top-rated sprinter, suffered a fatal injury on the gallops yesterday with trainer Denis Hogan revealing the "devastating" loss of a horse which has helped to parachute his training career.
Bought for just £2,800 from Godolphin by James McAuley of Hilltop Racing last August, Sceptical quickly made his mark with a series of scintillating displays before going off favourite in the Group One Diamond Jubilee Staes at Royal Ascot in June.
The Exceed and Excel gelding ran a cracker to be third before going one better when second in the July Cup - both under Frankie Dettori - and had been slated to tackle the Group Three Phoenix Stakes Sprint at the Curragh on Sunday before tragedy struck.
A heartbroken Hogan revealed the terrible news yesterday as the emerging Tipperary trainer - who retired from the saddle just last week at the Galway Races - rued the loss of "a horse of a lifetime".
"We have been dealt a devastating cruel blow at Boherna this morning with the loss of our superstar sprinter Sceptical, He was a horse of a lifetime and a game changer for my training career and everyone at Boherna," Hogan wrote on Twitter.
Hogan's sadness was echoed by those at Hilltop Racing after the 116-rated four-year-old suffered a "terrible tragedy".
"We had a terrible tragedy this morning as Sceptical was fatally injured on the gallops," Hilltop Racing said on Twitter. "He was an amazing horse for us and we'll remember all the great days we enjoyed with him. We'd like to thank Denis Hogan and Joey Sheridan and all the staff and we feel so sad for everyone."
The O'Brien family has a strong possible contingent for the 100th renewal of the WS Cox Plate in Melbourne, with 22 of the 182 total entries hailing from the stables of Aidan, Joseph or Donnacha.
Magical, Magic Wand, Peaceful and Mogul feature among 13 for Aidan O'Brien, while Nassau Stakes winner Fancy Blue is Donnacha's entry.
Joesph O'Brien has eight contenders including Buckhurst and Twilight Payment, while Willie Mullins has nominated True Self for the October 24 race at at Moonee Valley.
However, restrictions around staff travel to Australia could impact the number of overseas runners.
RV executive general manager Greg Carpenter said: "The quality of international entries remains strong despite the current restrictions and the next month will ultimately determine whether these internationals horses can compete."