O'Neill pays tribute as dual festival winner Holywell is retired
Jonjo O'Neill has paid tribute to Holywell after the two-time Cheltenham Festival winner was retired at the age of ten.
Purchased for £70,000 at the Cheltenham November sale in 2011, Holywell gave the trainer and owner Gay Smith several memorable moments, the majority of which came at the festival.
He won the Pertemps Final in 2013 under Richie McLernon, who rode him to success in the 3m½f handicap chase on day one in 2014, a race in which he finished second in 2016.
But his finest hour arguably came at Aintree when he beat subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Don Cossack by ten lengths in the Grade 1 Mildmay Chase in 2014.
"He was a great little horse and we were very lucky to have him," O'Neill said. "He was very straightforward and well mannered - you could put a child on him at home - and his form was brilliant.
"He won twice at the Cheltenham Festival but the main race that stands out was his novice chase win at Aintree when he beat Don Cossack. It was a massive performance - he was on fire that day and so was AP [McCoy]."
That victory made him a leading fancy for the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup the following season, but sent off at 8-1, he finished nine-and-half lengths fourth behind Coneygree.
This season the son of Gold Well had not been the force of old and was pulled up in his three of his last four starts, including what proved to be his final run at Aintree's Grand National meeting.
"He's been in good form but you could see he's not the horse he was so it's the nice thing to do," added O'Neill. "He's gone over to Richie McLernon's family in Ireland and will go hunting and show jumping."
From 32 career starts, Holywell won seven times, earning £311,565 in prize-money.