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End of an era as 'horse of a lifetime' Hardy Eustace dies aged 27

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AN ‘all-time great’ racehorse and Cheltenham Festival legend has sadly died at the age of 27.

Hardy Eustace was a three-time Festival winner, claiming the Champion Hurdle two years in a row from 2004.

Hardy Eustace will be remembered as a Cheltenham Festival hero famed for one of its greatest ever finishes

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Hardy Eustace will be remembered as a Cheltenham Festival hero famed for one of its greatest ever finishesCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
Hardy Eustace's (right) win over Harchibald has gone down in Festival folklore

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Hardy Eustace’s (right) win over Harchibald has gone down in Festival folkloreCredit: Reuters

The first of his wins was particularly poignant as it came after the death of Irish jockey Kieran Kelly – the man who rode him to victory in the Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle the year before.

Kelly died aged 25 as a result of serious head injuries sustained in a fall at Kilbeggan racecourse in Ireland.

Laurence Byrne, Hardy Eustace’s owner, said Kelly ‘made this horse’ and a race report from the time described Hardy Eustace as ‘flying in on angel’s wings’.

The Irish National Stud announced the horse’s passing yesterday.

A statement read: “Hardy Eustace harnessed his great bravery and heart to memorably storm up the Cheltenham hill three years in a row to land the Grade 1 Sun Alliance Hurdle in 2003, followed by back-to-back victories in the Champion Hurdle.

“Having spectacularly lowered the colours of the previous Champion Hurdler, Rooster Booster, in a brilliant front-running display under Conor O’Dwyer in 2004 he retained his crown in one of the most spectacular finishes in Cheltenham history in 2005.

“The race that will forever be remembered for the brilliant cruising speed of Harchibald, will also be remembered for the incredibly guts and determination shown by O’Dwyer and Hardy Eustace to repel his challenge by a neck with the great Brave Inca a further neck behind in third.

“On this sad day, we also remember fondly Hardy’s late trainer Dessie Hughes and Kieran Kelly.”

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His owner Byrne said: “It’s a very sad day. He was a once in a lifetime horse for all the Byrne family.”

And Hughes’ daughter Sandra added: “Hardy was a horse of a lifetime for my dad.

“He was a beautiful horse with a huge heart who loved racing.

“It’s a sad day and the end of an era but Hardy Eustace will always have a special place in our hearts.”

Hardy Eustace won more than £1million in prize money with 14 victories from his 48 runs.

His passing was announced on a dark weekend for racing, which sadly saw a 25-year-old jockey lose his life in a race in Kent.

Paul Nicholls was devastated after Keagan Kirkby, a worker at his yard, sustained fatal injuries in a point-to-point meeting at Charing.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s horse Hermes Allen tragically passed while running at Sandown – and a jockey in Italy lost his life three days after a terrible fall.

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