Paul Rooney pays tribute to Starchitect: 'We will never forget him'
Owner Paul Rooney on Sunday spoke fondly of the horse he will never forget following the death of Starchitect, who broke down when clear in Saturday's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
Trained by David Pipe and ridden by Tom Scudamore, Starchitect, who ran in the increasingly familiar navy and yellow silks of Rooney and his wife Clare, swept into the lead and looked in full control only to lose his action two out, leaving Guitar Pete to overhaul Clan Des Obeaux in the £120,000 handicap.
Pipe, Scudamore and the owner's racing manager Jason Maguire were left devastated by the loss, as was Rooney.
He said: "He was such a lovely horse, loved by the grooms and everybody who came in touch with him. I remember the day we bought him at Newmarket. He shone then and shone in his career. We had great hopes for him, it's a very sad loss.
"We thought he might make the National and he flew over those jumps like a gazelle; he was a brilliant jumper and it just happened on the flat. It's so sad. With most injuries you think of a bad fall, and it's very unfortunate for a lovely horse and the end of a career too early."
Rooney, who came close to winning the Grand National last year with The Last Samuri, added: "Clare and I are very passionate about our horses and whatever it costs we put it right. The horses' welfare comes above winning races.
"I feel for the grooms and lasses who look after him because, as owners we're very passionate, but they are the ones getting up to feed them at 5am in the morning; they're so close to them.
"We've had messages from owners we've never heard of or met and texts from trainers and well wishes. The people in the industry are very compassionate about the horses and there's a camaraderie. People rally round and it's been quite comforting in that respect. He was one of our big stars so we'll never forget Starchitect."
Rooney, who watched the race on television, felt the area where Starchitect broke down – an intersection of Cheltenham's old and new courses – was softer and more churned up than the rest of the track the six-year-old had been running on.
"Jason went to the area and investigated straight afterwards and it's where the track goes off to the cross-country course, so the ground was churned and softer there," he said.
"If he'd been a few yards further out he probably would have avoided it. I think the view is it's unfortunate. He was running on good to soft ground and then suddenly it went really soft and he slipped."
An examination of the surface was carried out by track and BHA officials, who found no problem with conditions, and Cheltenham's clerk of the course Simon Claisse said on Sunday: "It's a little more worn in that area because the Old course crosses the New at the bottom of the new hill.
"There are areas of the old course that cross the new and vice versa, which understandably – after a [wet] weekend like we had in November – are going to have more wear on them.
"The new course has to cross the old course somewhere. We looked in a lot of detail at the track configuration prior to widening it in 2002-03 before we went to four days at the festival to see if we could get rid of those intersections.
"The problem is the tightness of the bends means it wouldn't be possible to gallop around them. When a horses suffers an injury – whether it's on the flat or at an obstacle – we will inspect the area that has happened. That inspection [on Saturday] didn't reveal anything unusual. If there were any concerns about track safety we wouldn't run on it."
Claisse added: "I'd like to pass on our thoughts to the Rooneys and all those connected with the horse."
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