'I'll miss him terribly' - groom heartbroken after death of Apache Stronghold
Apache Stronghold's groom Emma Connolly has spoken of her heartbreak and struggle to hold back the tears after the Grade 1-winning chaser suffered a fatal pelvic injury on Sunday.
Despite getting up from a final-fence fall in the 2m5f handicap chase at Leopardstown and making it back to trainer Noel Meade's Castletown yard, Apache Stronghold was found to have haemorrhaged and was subsequently put down.
"I was gutted. Heartbroken. He was a complete dude and I loved him to bits," said Connolly on Monday morning. "He was just the most gorgeous, handsome horse you could ever wish to find.
"When you have them since they are babies and watch them grow up, it is very hard to take when they're gone. Everybody in the yard was wondering why I had big red, puffy eyes on me when I came in this morning. To say I shed a few tears would be an understatement. I was heartbroken and I will miss him terribly."
Apache Stronghold won five of his 18 starts with his finest hour coming in the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown in February 2015. He finished second to Vautour, albeit beaten 15 lengths, in the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham the following month.
"He gave us all some magic days and the Flogas win was definitely the best," Connolly said. "You dream about days like that. That was my only Grade 1 win. I look after Texas Jack, Moulin A Vent and Snow Falcon as well but none of them has won a Grade 1 yet. Hopefully that will change come Cheltenham."