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'It’s devastating news and I felt like handing in my licence the other day'

Happier times: Sam Drinkwater at his yard with stable star Tour Des Champs
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Trainer Sam Drinkwater has been left devastated by the death of stable star Tour Des Champs, who could not be saved after suffering a severe bout of colic.

The ten-year-old, owned by the Prestbury Racing Club, put Drinkwater on the map just months into his first season with a full training licence when winning a handicap chase over the Cheltenham Gold Cup course and distance on New Year’s Day this year.

Sent off an unheralded 50-1 shot, Tour Des Champs relished the testing conditions to land a surprise success under Drinkwater’s stable jockey Robbie Dunne, handing his rookie trainer success at Cheltenham with his first runner at the course.

“It’s devastating news and I felt like handing in my licence the other day,” said Drinkwater. “I sent him in for a wind operation and that all went fantastic but the next morning he had bad colic.

“You have to make a decision as to whether to have the horse put down or go for surgery. We went for surgery to get him right but halfway through they could do no more for him and unfortunately he’s not around any more.”

Tour Des Champs and Robbie Dunne on the way to giving Sam Drinkwater a memorable Cheltenham victory

Despite rising 11, and having been pulled up on his only run since his January success, Drinkwater was convinced Tour Des Champs had another big day in him and was setting his sights on running at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

“I owe him the world after New Year’s Day,” continued Drinkwater.  “I’ve got pictures of him everywhere and he was like a lord. That’s why I was getting him ready for only one run, because he’s that kind of horse – you get him 100 per cent ready once, and he delivers for you.

“I was aiming him at the Kim Muir and was going to claim 7lb off him; I thought he’d have a right chance, but that wasn’t the be-all and end-all. The be-all and end-all was keeping the horse.”      

He added: “I’ve not slept for a week and it’s the horrible side to horses. He was such a happy horse and apparently he walked into the operating room with his ears pricked. That’s the sort of character he was – he was a happy-go-lucky kind of horse.”

The loss of Tour Des Champs comes after a miserable few months for Drinkwater, 26, whose horses have suffered with a bug in the yard. He even took the drastic measure to close down his Worcestershire stable at the end of October and sent out just one runner last month.

The first signs of a recovery came at Southwell on Tuesday, when the former jockey saddled a first winner of the season, Rif Raftou, and Drinkwater is confident his yard is now bug-free.  

He said: “We’ve got some lovely horses like General Consensus and Sergeant Brody and, while it'll take time to get them properly healthy, hopefully we can have a good spring. We got off to a great start last season and everything was fantastic, but this is a hard game, and a frustrating one as well.”


If you enjoyed this, you should read:

On Location with Sam Drinkwater

Rif Raftou gets lucky


Look back on the best action of the year in the new edition of the Racing Post Annual. Order now at racingpost.com/shop or call 01933 304858


 

Apparently he walked into the operating room with his ears pricked. That’s the sort of character he was – he was a happy-go-lucky kind of horse
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