Two-time Fighting Fifth winner Irving retired
The Paul Nicholls-trained dual Grade 1 winner Irving has been retired by owners Axom.
The ten-year-old, who found only Buveur D'Air too good when bidding for a third success in the Unibet Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in December, was last of six in a seniors' handicap at Taunton last weekend – beaten 36 lengths – and connections have decided to call time on a stellar career.
"It’s been a pleasure to train him," said Nicholls. "It was always the idea to get him back for one more Fighting Fifth before considering retirement.
"It’s the right decision to retire him. He’s had lots of problems. He won two Grade 1s, but would have won a lot more without those problems.
"He’s always been a bit of a challenge, but one that I’ve loved dealing with."
Irving won eight of his 20 starts for Axom XLIX. As a novice he won the Grade 2 Kennel Gate and Dovecote by an aggregate of 11 lengths, after which he was sent off the 7-2 joint-favourite with Vautour for the 2014 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle in which he finished ninth. He beat wondermare Apple's Jade to win his second Fighting Fifth in 2016.
Dan Downie, racing manager for Axom, said: "The Taunton run was disappointing. The ground was horrific but he didn't really look interested from the off and we said at the start of the season that if at any point we'd stop immediately with him. I went to see him yesterday and he looked as fresh as I've ever seen him, he was in really rude health, so it was a relief to finish with him sound and well and he can now go on and do another job."
On Irving's glittering career, Downie added: "He wasn't expensive, we bought him from Germany, but he was just a star really. He wasn't the easiest to keep sound but he never missed a year. He definitely required a bit of management to keep him on the road and if he hadn't been so delicate I think he could have been top, top class. He still won two Grade 1s, that's how good he was, and we had some great days. He was a star for us.
"On his day he was very, very good. He won an Elite Hurdle by seven lengths and looked incredible that day. We're just very fortunate to have been involved with him.
"Paul really had to treat him as an individual and full marks to him and his team for keeping him on the road for as long as they did, winning races every season. You couldn't just sit him with everything else, he needed to be treated differently and I think Paul enjoyed the challenge and he was absolutely worth it, but he was certainly a good match."
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