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Ulster Grand National winning horse Chief Oscar drops dead after race

It should have been a cause for celebration after Chief Oscar won one of the biggest events in the Ulster horse racing calendar — but just moments later triumph turned to tragedy.

Jockey Andrew Lynch was celebrating success in the Ulster Grand National yesterday when his mount collapsed and died.

The heartbroken jockey was reduced to tears after he was unable to save the horse, which died instantly.

Chief Oscar is believed to have suffered a heart attack seconds after crossing the finishing post at Downpatrick Racecourse.

It was a sombre end to yesterday’s showpiece event, which attracted more than 2,000 spectators.

The nine-year-old horse had held off the challenge of Bally Wall to win the £16,000 first prize, but stumbled to the ground as Mr Lynch was pulling up.

The winning jockey was visibly upset as he stood over the stricken animal, and afterwards described his shock at the tragic turn of events.

“There was no indication as he jumped the last fence in front that this drama would follow,” he said.

“I pulled him up after passing the winning post and it was only after cantering back to the start that he lost his rhythm and went down.

“There seems no obvious reason for it. The horse just ran his heart out. I have never known anything like it.”

Chief Oscar, which was trained by Downpatrick man Brian Hamilton, had taken the lead five fences from the finish line of the 3.5 mile race. Mr Hamilton was in the parade ring when he was approached by one of the stewards. He walked to the scene and also broke down in tears after seeing the animal.

“It is a terrible way to end the day. I had always wanted to win the Ulster National, which is on my home ground, but it has ended in tragedy,” he said.

“He collapsed past the line. The vet said he probably ruptured an artery and had a heart attack.”

The winning owner, Bobby Donaldson, added: “The course ambulance went down and when I saw it, I feared the worst.”

Belfast Telegraph racing correspondent Jimmy Walker, who was at yesterday’s meeting, said it was a freak tragedy.

“This was a freak occurrence as far as racing at this level is concerned,” he said.

“I never remember a horse winning a race and then dying a few yards after completing the course.”

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