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Horse confirmed dead after accident at Cheltenham festival

Horse confirmed dead after accident at Cheltenham festival

The horse has been put down on Day One of the event

One of the competing horses at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival has been announced dead following a fatal injury.

The animal suffered a nasty fall during the third race of the day.

Named Highland Hunter, the horse lost its life after the 2:50 pm Ultima Handicap on day one of the event today (12 March).

Early in the race, the horse fell, sustaining an injury that ultimately was rendered too serious to continue and he was later put down.

Shortly following the Grey Gelding horse's fall, immediate concerns of his health grew, with ITV racing presenter Ed Chamberlin confirming the worst.

Chamberlin told ITV viewers: "I'm afraid it's the news we feared.

"The racecourse have been in touch to say this: 'Highland Hunter was immediately attended to by expert veterinary professionals during the third race, the Ultima Handicap, but sadly sustained a fatal injury'.

"They say 'our heartfelt condolences are with connections' and we echo that."

The horse fell early in the race.
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Fergal O'Brien Racing, who was the horse's trainer, took to social media to express their disappointment at the news, posting on X: "Not sure we’ll be tweeting again today after this. Absolutely devastated. Thanks for the messages we’re already receiving and those to come #RIPHighlandHunter."

ITV Racing, also came out with a statement, saying: "Highland Hunter has sadly passed away after suffering a fatal injury in the Ultima Handicap.

"Our thoughts are with connections at this difficult time."

This unfortunate turn of events comes days after a heartfelt funeral for jockey Keagan Kirkby, which saw Highland Hunter lead the proceedings.

Kirkby was only 25 years old when he passed away in a horse-riding accident earlier this year.

Highland Hunter's injuries were too serious to continue.
Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Just this morning, footage on social media showed the late horse enjoying a gallop around, warming up for the day's action.

The video was captioned: "We run old boy Highland Hunter in the Ultima this afternoon, he won’t mind the rain at all," as the horse went through his stretches ahead of his final outing.

Chianti Classico won The Ultima Handicap in the end, under jockey David Bass, who powered through a slight wobble after the final hurdle to secure the win to snatch victory from Twig under Beau Morgan.

However, the race will ultimately be remembered for the sad loss of Highland Hunter, with his fatal fall leading to the first death of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival.

The total of horses that have died as a result of racing at the Cheltenham Festival since March 2000 is now 75.

Featured Image Credit: Michael Steele/Getty Images / Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Topics: Sport, UK News, Animals