Death of Punchestown great Risk Of Thunder, aged 27
Risk Of Thunder, owned by actor Sean Connery and credited with stimulating interest in cross-country races in Ireland, has died at the age of 27.
He won the La Touche Cup at the Punchestown Festival a record seven times and spent his retirement at JP McManus' Martinstown Stud in County Limerick, where he was the companion of triple Champion Hurdle hero Istabraq.
The son of Strong Gale was trained for most of his racing career by Enda Bolger.
He landed Punchestown's most famous 'banks' contest from 1995 to 2002 inclusive, the race not being run in 2001.
Bolger rode the horse to three of his successes in that race.
He said: "It's very sad news. He was a terrific horse and his jumping was his forte. He got all the people excited to go and watch him jump in those banks races.
"He made those races popular, his jumping was so flamboyant and people started to warm to those races again.
"To win that race seven times in a row, the La Touche Cup, was an unbelievable achievement. He was also second in the Pardubicke.
"I rode him 14 times in all, including point-to-points, and he was a tremendous horse to have around.
"Being owned by Sean Connery he was always going to be a high-profile horse. He was usually very busy filming, but we kept him in touch with videos and newspaper cuttings. He would ring up and enquire how the horse was.
"The horse was 27 and had a great innings. He spent his retirement at JP's and was the companion of Istabraq, so poor old Istabraq is suffering today at the loss of his buddy."
When he retired, Risk Of Thunder used to return to Punchestown for their Festival meeting to parade.
General manager Richie Galway said: "He was an amazing horse and it's a sad day.
"We have great memories of him and he was unbeatable around Punchestown.
"He reinvigorated the banks races and was a true star.
"We looked forward to having him back at Punchestown every year to parade when he finished racing, but the last couple of years he hasn't been as they didn't want to take him out of his routine to travel.
"I know to JP and to (his wife) Noreen and their family he was a pet at the farm. He had a great retirement and was a great horse."