Sunday 24 March 2019

Favourite Sir Erec suffers fatal injury as Pentland Hills wins JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham

Nico de Boinville celebrates on Pentland Hills after winning the 1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle
Nico de Boinville celebrates on Pentland Hills after winning the 1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle

Nick Robson

Pentland Hills caused a 20-1 shock in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival for Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville.

With Chris Wall on the Flat, he did not make his hurdling debut until the end of last month when winning at Plumpton.

Back in 1985 First Bout won the corresponding race at Plumpton and later went on to become Henderson's first Triumph Hurdle winner.

De Boinville had plenty in front of him coming down the hill, as Quel Destin, Coeur Sublime and his stablemate Adjali were still in contention.

Pentland Hills was still moving sweetly on the long run to the last, though, and powered up the hill to beat Gordon Elliott's Coeur Sublime by three lengths, with Gardens Of Babylon third.

The winner was given a 25-1 quote for next year's Champion Hurdle by Paddy Power.

But the race was marred by a fatal injury to Joseph O'Brien's hot favourite Sir Erec, who broke down at halfway.

Henderson said of the winner: "He nearly fell at the first. I was then thinking, 'Nicky Henderson, I'm not sure it is a good idea', but then the rest was good.

"The amazing thing is when he won at Plumpton I was very impressed with him. He was so professional racing, and professional jumping."

He went on: "I think he was only rated in the 70s on the Flat and I thought we were being a bit brave, but it is lovely.

"We've got a very long way to go (Champion Hurdle) as that was only the second hurdle run of his life. We will try to go somewhere else before it (season) is all over.

"There is no reason he shouldn't run on the Flat again. He is a slightly Punjabi-type of horse."

The Seven Barrows handler also paid tribute to Sir Erec, adding: "Sir Erec was a gorgeous horse, he was just stunning.

"That goes and happens and your heart goes out to them, as JP (McManus, owner) is a good mate and is one of the great men of National Hunt racing."

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