Big Buck's conqueror Knockara set for sound and happy retirement
While tragedy was striking Reve De Sivola just yards away, another smart staying hurdler Knockara Beau was heading into well-deserved retirement.
Time was called on his memorable career after the 14-year-old was pulled up two out at Kelso by Jan Faltejsek, who rode him in all bar ten of his 58 races.
"We said when the horse tells us, we'll retire him and Jan said he just didn't want to know going down to the start on that tacky ground," trainer George Charlton reflected on Sunday.
"So that's it. He's come out sound, while Reve De Sivola had that terrible accident, and he's going to have a happy life without being in the public eye. He's going to go to my cousin and he'll take to it perfectly. He's been loved to bits all his life and treated like royalty, really."
Knockara Beau has almost become part of the family at Mickley Grange Farm in Northumberland. Charlton's father Alistair won two races with his dam Clairabell (whom he bought for just 2,000gns) and, after being underbidder for her first two sons, he bought Knockara Beau as a foal for €9,000.
"He was a lovely foal and he was perfect right from day one," George Charlton recalled. "He was an outstanding-looking horse and grew into a nice big three-year-old."
It was as a five-year-old that he made a winning debut in a bumper, gaining the first of five victories at Kelso.
"I backed him at 33-1," Charlton remembered. "We thought he couldn't get beaten. I just back in small money but we had a good day that day."
You can't knock his form
Knockara Beau won 11 races in total, including four hurdles and five chases, and earned more than £240,000.
"We tried him over fences but he just tended to miss one. He still ran well to be sixth in the Gold Cup though," Charlton said.
He ran no fewer than 22 times at Cheltenham and enjoyed his finest hour when springing a 66-1 surprise in the Cleeve Hurdle in 2014.
"He just loved coming up that hill at Cheltenham," Charlton said. "He didn't like tacky ground and on faster ground he wasn't quick enough, but days when it rained just before racing were ideal.
"When he won the Cleeve Hurdle there was a thunderstorm before racing and that woke him up a bit. A branch fell off a tree behind the saddling boxes, slid down the roof and landed right in front of him as I was putting the saddle on – his eyes nearly popped out of his head!
"It worked – and that was the best day, beating Big Buck's."
Three of Knockara Beau's greatest moments
Kelso, February 2009
Knockara Beau was stepped up in class for the Grade 2 tote Premier Kelso Hurdle and showed himself a smart novice.
Having been tapped for speed earlier on, he moved up to lead at the final flight and bounded clear to score by fully 27 lengths.
Cheltenham, March 2010
He was best known for his exploits as a hurdler, but the form book would suggest Knockara Beau was at least as good over fences.
Indeed, he never ran to a higher Racing Post Rating than the mark of 158 he achieved when fourth to Weapon's Amnesty in the RSA Chase.
And he might have finished even closer as he lost his place with a mistake four out but rallied from the next and stayed on so well on the run-in that he nearly grabbed third on the line, beaten only seven and a half lengths behind the winner.
Cheltenham, January 2014
Knockara Beau was a 66-1 shot for a Cleeve Hurdle in which all eyes were on multiple champion staying hurdler Big Buck's, returning from injury and on an 18-race winning run.
But Knockara Beau's wind had been operated on since his previous appearance and he showed the benefit as he gained the biggest success of his career.
Having looked set to be put in his place when he dropped to last after three out, he rallied to get back into contention and stayed on resolutely to get the best of a three-way finish with At Fishers Cross and Big Buck's by a short head and three-quarters of a length.