Marquesa death under investigation following son's murder allegation
The death of the Marquesa de Moratalla, the leading racehorse owner synonymous with great French jumpers like The Fellow, has been plunged into controversy after an allegation she had been the victim of foul play.
The prosecutor's office in Bayonne, France has opened a formal investigation and ordered an autopsy to be carried out on Monday after a lawsuit was filed on Friday by her son Forester Labrouche claiming she was murdered.
The Marquesa, described by trainer Francois Doumen as the 'grande dame' of French racing, died this week aged 87 of natural causes, according to the doctor who issued a burial permit.
However, according to a report in the Times, Labrouche alleges his mother was killed without spelling out in his lawsuit how or why.
His actions brought a furious response from German de la Cruz, the Marquesa's adopted second son whose lawyers said they were "stupefied at the indecency" of Labrouche's request and the publicity given to it.
They believe Labrouche is trying to put his brother under suspicion for the death of his mother, who had Alzheimer's. Labrouche claims he was prevented from seeing his mother by De La Cruz in the final years of her life.
Relations between the two brothers have been strained for a number of years with both engaged in legal action over a family fortune which is reportedly worth over £1 billion.
The Marquesa enjoyed Classic success on the Flat but gained her most memorable successes over jumps when her colours were carried to success in the 1990s in four out of five renewals of the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris with three different horses: The Fellow, dual winner Ucello and Ubu.
The Fellow went on to land the King George twice, in 1991 and 1992 and, after two short head defeats and a fourth, eventually won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1994.
Members can read the latest exclusive interviews, news analysis and comment available from 6pm daily on racingpost.com