Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 14 December 2019

Gold Cup hero Imperial Call dies

The 1996 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Call has died
The 1996 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Call has died

Press Association

Imperial Call, the 1996 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, has died aged 25.

The four-times Grade One scorer enjoyed his finest moment on a racetrack under the tutelage of Fergie Sutherland when Conor O'Dwyer's partner won the blue riband in jumps racing by four lengths from Rough Quest.

In doing so, he became the first Irish-trained horse since Dawn Run in 1986 to claim the Gold Cup, sparking euphoric scenes in the winner's enclosure.

Imperial Call also won the Irish Hennessy at Leopardstown during the same season.

Injury problems continually restricted his progress, but he still went on to win the John Durkan at Punchestown and the Punchestown Gold Cup when trained by Raymond Hurley following the retirement of Sutherland in 1998.

Ann Sutherland, wife of the late trainer, told Press Association Sport: "Imperial Call suffered from arthritis and it was not getting any better.

"He had a lovely summer but I didn't want him to go through another winter so the decision was taken to have him euthanised.

"He was a wonderful horse and gave a lot of people a great amount of pleasure."

Even in spite of his Gold Cup heroics, O'Dwyer felt Imperial Call was never able to show racegoers quite how good he was.

He said: "Imperial Call played such a big part in my career.

"To win the Gold Cup when I was 30 was a huge turning point for me and I'll never forget him for that.

"He was, sadly, a horse who had a hell of a lot of problems and I'm sure he'd have won another Gold Cup had he stayed sound.

"Fergie did an unbelievable job to keep him going and it's just unfortunate he didn't reach his full potential.

"He meant an awful lot to me."

Imperial Call won 16 races from 32 starts under Rules and spent his retirement in Macroom, County Cork.

Hurley echoed the thoughts of Dwyer, believing Imperial Call had enough ability to achieve genuine greatness.

He said: "I was very young when I was given the chance to train him and he was just fantastic.

"We always thought he had the talent to win three Gold Cups.

"He was a wonderful horse, but if he had had a bit more luck on his side he could have been the real, real deal."

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