Willie Mullins has paid tribute to “real legend” Wicklow Brave after he suffered a fatal fall at Far Hills racecourse in America.
The 10-year-old had a remarkable career, striking at Group One level on the Flat in the 2016 Irish St Leger and also adding a top-level success over obstacles when winning the 2017 Punchestown Champion Hurdle.
He appeared to be the verge of adding another notable win to his record in the American Grand National when he fell at the last on Saturday, with officials at the New Jersey venue later confirming Wicklow Brave had fractured his shoulder and had to be euthanised.
Wicklow Brave won 17 of his 59 races – and while Mullins admits his Irish St Leger victory, when he had Gold Cup winner Order Of St George in second, was his best performance, the trainer pointed to the Punchestown Grade One win as his most memorable verdict.
Mullins tweeted: “I would like to pay tribute to Wicklow Brave, who was a real legend in our yard.
“A career like his will probably never be replicated, going from bumpers to hurdles, back to the Flat and then chasing.
“His best day was winning the St Leger. However, winning the Punchestown Champion Hurdle with (son) Patrick on board to put us ahead in that memorable trainers’ title battle will be remembered around here for a long time.
“He will be missed by Wicklow Bloodstock’s Nick Peacock, Jason Dear – who rode him every day and looked after his every need – and all at Closutton.”
Jockey Paul Townend, who escaped injury in the fall at Far Hills, admits Wicklow Brave is a significant loss for the Mullins team.
He teamed up with the Beat Hollow gelding on 16 occasions, including when winning the 2015 County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Townend also enjoyed a memorable spin on the level with Wicklow Brave, finishing third in the 2015 Irish St Leger in what the rider described as a “stand-out moment” in his career.
He said: “Wicklow Brave was an unbelievable horse, and it looked like we were going to have great day, but it put a real dampener on the trip.
“It is a tight track, and the ground is so quick underneath. The soil on the top was starting to shift a little bit, which wasn’t ideal.
“It is a tight bend (before the last) – but once I got him balanced again, he was starting to open up again. I thought I’d have won – and he is a big, big loss.
“Winning the County Hurdle was a high point, and riding him in the St Leger was something I’ll probably never again get to do – riding in a Classic on the Flat was a stand-out moment for me.”
Wicklow Brave won more than £940,000 during his career, with a Grade Three win over fences also to his credit along with a raft of places at Group level on the Flat and in Graded company over obstacles.
He also twice contested the Melbourne Cup, finishing 22nd in 2016 and 10th a year later.
Far Hills race meeting chairman Guy Torsilieri said: “We are sad to have lost such a champion. Our thoughts are with Wicklow Brave’s owners and all of their connections, the racing community and the fans. It was heartbreaking for all of us.”