'He was the most wonderful horse and we'll never forget him' - immensely popular hurdler Harchibald dies aged 25

Hardy Eustace (right) leads Harchibald (centre) over a flight during the closing stages of the 2005 Champion Hurdle
Hardy Eustace (right) leads Harchibald (centre) and Brave Inca over the final flight in the 2005 Champion HurdleCredit: Mark Cranham

The hugely popular Harchibald, who is remembered most for his part in the thrilling Champion Hurdle of 2005 when Paul Carberry sat motionless halfway up the run-in, has died at the age of 25. 

Harchibald was adored by jump racing fans for his ability to stay on the bridle during his races and, while he didn't win the Champion Hurdle 19 years ago as Hardy Eustace outbattled him close home, he almost won more supporters by the manner of his defeat. 

Indeed, his trainer Noel Meade admitted he won't be remembered most for the 14 races he won, including five Grade 1s, but instead the high-profile event he narrowly failed to. 

Meade told the Racing Post: "Harchibald was the most wonderful horse. It's funny because he is more popular for the race he didn't win rather than all the races he did win. He didn't maybe do all the things we wanted him to do, but he did a lot of them. He gave us some fantastic days. He was a great one and we'll never forget him.

"He was 25 and he enjoyed a wonderful retirement. Johnny Hurley looked after him since he retired and he treated him like a king."

Reflecting on what made Harchibald so good, Meade said we were led to believe he was a seriously quick horse by the way he travelled in his races, but it was another department of his game that made him such a talent. 

Noel Meade: won two of the last three Leinster Nationals
Noel Meade: "He gave us some fantastic days"Credit: Patrick McCann (

The trainer said: "Everybody always said he was a very fast horse, but he wasn't that fast at all. He was a brilliant jumper and his jumping was so electric that it made him look quicker than he was. He would gain ground on horses in the air and I can't remember him making too many mistakes in his career, I'd say you could count them on one hand. 

"Paul had supreme confidence in him too. He knew he would wing a hurdle when he got to one and they were a great team together."

As well as the 14 races he won, Harchibald was runner-up in 11 others, including the 2005 Champion Hurdle which will go down in racing folklore as one of the most dramatic races in the history of the Cheltenham Festival. 

Another dramatic event involving Harchibald was the Christmas Hurdle of 2004 at Kempton, where he gave Rooster Booster a 25-length head start at one stage but still managed to reel in the grey after the last under a masterful Carberry ride. He won that race again four years later when beating Snap Tie. 

Harchibald also won two Fighting Fifths at Newcastle as well as a Grade 1 at Tipperary. 

But it is the 2005 Champion Hurdle that everybody will remember Harchibald most for. The day he looked home and hosed under a motionless Carberry only to be denied by a neck by back-to-back winner Hardy Eustace. He was beaten that day, but won a lot of hearts with the way he went down. 

His last appearance in public was in a Flat handicap at Dundalk in November 2009, while he also ran once over fences when chasing home Sizing Europe in a Grade 3 novice chase the month beforehand.

Read these next:

Paul Carberry: 'I still believe I gave Harchibald the best chance of winning' 

Cheltenham Festival memories can last a lifetime - just ask one long-suffering Harchibald backer 

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David JenningsDeputy Ireland editor