'He was a star - the soundest little horse I ever had'
Charlie Mann has paid tribute to Celibate following the death of the prolific two-mile chaser, "by far" the best horse he has trained.
Well named, being by Shy Groom out of Dance Alone, Celibate raced 87 times, winning 14 including the Grade 1 Champion Chase at the 1999 Punchestown festival. He amassed £273,316 in prize-money and was also second 15 times and third another 15.
The Lambourn-based Mann credits the gelding, who was 25, with being a major factor in kickstarting his training career.
Mann said: "I went to Ireland to see Mick O'Toole, who was training him at the time and he wanted £30,000, which was far too much for me. I couldn't afford him, but he went to Doncaster sales and I got him for about £9,000.
"I couldn't give him away though, so eventually I put an advert in the Racing Post and a chap called Bob Michaelson got back to me and bought him and the horse never stopped winning.
"He should have won what is now the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, then went novice chasing as a five-year-old and won his first four. He was third in the Arkle, won a Game Spirit and also Punchestown's Champion Chase.
"He was a star and certainly helped my career. He was the soundest little horse I ever had and he used to come out with a smile on his face every morning, he just loved being trained. Then I hunted him afterwards and he was brilliant at that."
"He was even, as a two-mile chaser, in the money in the National; I was nearly in tears after. I went to see him and he'd run his heart out - he was exhausted.
"His jumping was unbelievable and Mick Fitzgerald and Richard Dunwoody used to fight over who would ride him. He was an amazing ride."
Mann added: "He was put down last week and spent his final years with Sarah Ashby, who looked after him so well, taking him to the beach.
"When you start training you take it for granted and think you'll have another like him, but I've never found another horse anywhere near as good. The handicapper used to say he could handicap horses on the way Celibate ran as he always ran his race."
Mann might not have found another Celibate, but has already surpassed last season's tally of winners with 15, following three last week.
He said: "I've got 18 horses in and we've had 15 winners – it's unbelievable and we could have another with Pickamix [2.00 Kempton, Monday]. He's a very good horse."