Wicklow Brave, one of racing’s most popular and versatile horses, has died after a fall when leading in the American Grand National.
The 10-year-old, ridden by Paul Townend for Irish trainer Willie Mullins, came down at the final flight at Far Hills.
He suffered a fractured right shoulder and was euthanised in the stables area, said New Jersey State veterinarian Dr Stacey Romano.
Wicklow Brave won 17 races over the jumps and on the flat.
Townend had described the horse, who won the 2015 County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and the 2017 Punchestown Champion Hurdle, as “the horse of a lifetime” for owner Nick Peacock.
Wicklow Brave looked set to add the US Grand National to a range of achievements before falling in the race which was won by Brain Power, ridden by Nico de Boinville for English trainer Nicky Henderson.
“This is absolutely devastating news. My sincerest condolences to all connections involved with Wicklow Brave. A terrible, terrible loss,” said Henderson.
Race meeting chairman Guy Torsilieri said: “We are sad to have lost such a champion today.
“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.”
Patrick Mullins, the son of champion trainer Willie, paid tribute to the horse he partnered to seven victories.
“Wicklow brought us all around the world and on a unique adventure,” he told the Racing Post.
“Jason Dear looked after him brilliantly and rode him every single day. He deserves huge credit for everything the horse has achieved in his career. Wicklow will be sorely missed. It’s a sad day.”
Wicklow Brave, who ran twice in the Melbourne Cup during his career, had won all three of his previous starts over fences and was being aimed at the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse in December.
The American Grand National is a different challenge to the longer Grand National at Aintree, and is run over hurdles over a distance of two miles and five furlongs.