Tuesday 20 February 2018

Illustrious career ends as Hardy earns honourable retirement

Keith Hamer

Dual Champion Hurdle winner Hardy Eustace has earned honourable retirement after his Punchestown defeat on Thursday.

As well as his victories in the Cheltenham showpiece in 2004 and 2005, he also won the 2003 Royal & Sun Alliance Novices' Hurdle at the Festival.

Although trainer Dessie Hughes believes the veteran still retains plenty of ability, he felt it best to call time on Hardy Eustace's great career after he finished second to Footy Facts.

"The ground was bottomless and it didn't suit him at all, but I think he still ran very well," said Hughes.

"If the ground had been good, I'm sure he would have given an unbelievable performance.

"Anyway, even on that ground, the fact that he couldn't beat Footy Facts means he won't be able to compete in Grade Ones and there are no other races for him.

"He's been a good, tough horse with a lot of class -- and a very healthy one too."

Now aged 13, the Archway gelding is to remain at Hughes's stables in Kildare.

"He will be ridden out every day until the spring and he'll go out to grass in the summer and we'll bring him back in again I'm sure," Hughes went on to say.

"He won't want to do nothing, so we'll have to keep him moving. We'll keep him happy and it's nice having horses like him in the yard."

Hardy Eustace, owned by Laurence Byrne, won 15 of his 46 starts, including seven Grade Ones and amassed over £1m in prize money.

Kieran Kelly rode him to victory in 2003 Royal & Sun Alliance Novices' Hurdle to start an amazing three-year winning run at the Cheltenham Festival.

Subsequently, Kelly tragically died in a fall at Kilbeggan and Conor O'Dwyer picked up the ride. The Wexford jockey was aboard him for his two Champion Hurdle triumphs in 2004 and '05 and he was quick to pay tribute.

"I'm absolutely delighted that he can enjoy his retirement after competing at the highest level for most of his career," O'Dwyer said.

"I got the ride in unfortunate circumstances in the first place, but it was tremendous to be associated with such a great horse at that stage of my career. There was no riding to him -- you just let him off and he bowled along. He was an amazing horse.

"He never knew he was beaten and relished a battle. There were horses with more ability, but none relished a battle as much as him."

Irish Independent

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