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Devastated O'Brien is trying to get to grips with loss of Sir Erec

 

By Nick Robson

Joseph O'Brien was trying to keep things in perspective after suffering a huge blow with the loss of star juvenile hurdler Sir Erec on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival.

The four-year-old, who had also been a smart performer on the Flat for O'Brien's father Aidan, had to be euthanised after suffering an injury during the JCB Triumph Hurdle, for which he had been a hot favourite.

While admitting his devastation, O'Brien felt yesterday's Christchurch mosque shootings that killed 49 people in New Zealand helped to put matters into context.

He said: "We're devastated - everyone at home, the owners and everyone.

"He had a stone bruise during the week and he seemed perfect the last couple of days. He had a full set of X-rays two days ago to make sure there was nothing else going on, and they were clean.

"Mark (Walsh, jockey) said he jumped the hurdle awkwardly and landed extremely awkwardly and obviously he got injured.

"It's one of those things, but I suppose when you see what happened in New Zealand, it kind of brings it into perspective a little."

All had looked to be going to plan until after the fourth flight and David Sykes, director of equine welfare at the British Horseracing Authority, felt Sir Erec's injury could not possibly have been predicted.

He said: "There was no indication of lameness, there was no indication of injuries. Whether he made a mistake at that hurdle or not and landed awkwardly - there was no reason we could predict that injury to that horse."

There was further heartbreak later in the afternoon when Invitation Only also had to be put down after a fall at the 10th fence in the Gold Cup.

His death was a further blow to Willie Mullins and owners Graham and Andrea Wylie after they also lost Ballyward in the National Hunt Chase on the opening day of the Festival.

There were six deaths at the Festival last year, and while the number of fatalities has halved, BHA chief executive Nick Rust said: "It is the role of the BHA and everyone in the sport to try to prevent injuries that could have been avoided. All racing incidents will undergo a process of review and evaluation."

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