Champion Chase and King George hero Edredon Bleu dies age 26
Henrietta Knight has paid heartfelt tribute to hugely popular and top-class chaser Edredon Bleu following his death at the age of 26.
Owned by Jim Lewis, like triple Gold Cup winner and stablemate Best Mate, Edredon Bleu won the two-mile Queen Mother Champion Chase and the King George VI Chase over three miles in a memorable era for Knight and her late husband Terry Biddlecombe.
He was retired at the age of 13 in 2005, the winner of 25 races and more than £730,000 in prize-money, and spent his remaining years with former champion jockey Graham Thorner.
"He was put down on Friday," said former trainer Knight. "He was coming up on 27 and he had one or two problems; it was much kinder to put him down – he had a few sores which couldn't heal up, they don't when they're older.
"He had a wonderful life with Graham Thorner, who really looked after him well. He was very happy and Graham was very good to him. It's great when horses have a good life after racing."
For all his subsequent achievements, Edredon Bleu did not make a great start after moving to West Lockinge Farm in Wantage as a four-year-old.
"We were very disappointed when he first came," recalled Knight. "We were told he was this wonder horse coming over from France – he'd won four novice chases as a four-year-old – but he was very narrow and looked very light.
"But he had a very good summer and acclimatised. A lot of French horses take longer to acclimatise than people realise."
Edredon Bleu was a revelation in his second British season, which culminated in him landing the 1998 Grand Annual Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, where he won the Champion Chase two years later.
He was ridden by Sir Anthony McCoy both times, and Knight said: "I talked to AP about him on Friday and he said that the amazing thing about him was that he still jumped fences in the French style, very low but very quick away from them – as soon as he landed he was gone.
"AP was the absolute master on him because he just galvanised him and dared him all the time."
EDREDON BLEU IN NUMBERS
3 Grade 1 wins
172 Highest Racing Post Rating
Edredon Bleu's final big win came when he sprang a 25-1 surprise in the King George at Kempton under Jim Culloty in 2003.
"Terry always said he'd stay three miles and I said, 'Don't be stupid,' but he was right," said Knight.
"He was amazing, he made virtually all the running. He loved being in front – he hated being behind horses, he got disappointed."
Three great wins
Looked in serious danger when headed by Direct Route 100 yards out but rallied valiantly to get back up close home.
Jumped brilliantly, made all and battled on gamely to hold Fadalko off by a short head.
The 25-1 shot who had never previously won at beyond two miles five furlongs allayed stamina fears as he made most to score by a game length and a quarter.
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