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Hardy Deserves to Rest On His Laurels

The announcement on New Year's Day that the dual Champion Hurdle winner Hardy Eustace has been retired, brings to an end an exceptional career for an admirable racehorse, writes Elliot Slater.

The two much-loved and battle hardened warriors, Brave Inca (Ruby Walsh left) and Hardy Eustace (Conor O`Dwyer) take the first in the Champion Hurdle, both running their usual sound races but, in the end, giving way to youth in the form of Sublimity (Cheltenham 13-03-07)

Hardy Eustace

Dessie Hughes' beloved gelding turned 13-years-old with the arrival of the new decade and, after running a brave but distant second behind Footy Facts in a run-of-the-mill affair at Fairyhouse on New Year's Eve, owner Lar Byrne decided that the old boy was beginning to feel his age and had earned an honourable retirement.

The son of Archway heads out to pasture having won no less than seven Grade 1 Hurdles, including victories in three successive years at the Cheltenham Festival. In 2003 he beat Pizarro in the Royal & Sun Alliance Novice Hurdle and then returned twelve months later to drop back in trip and beat Rooster Booster by five lengths in the 2004 Champion Hurdle.

Hardy Eustace, a particularly sound and genuine horse, returned to Cheltenham under regular pilot Conor O'Dwyer to win a memorable renewal of the hurdling blue riband in 2005, refusing to give in to the enigmatic Harchibald even when that rival appeared to have his measure over the last and battling like a lion to run out a tenacious neck winner.

The pilgrimage to Cheltenham remained a regular event for the now hugely popular Hardy Eustace, who ran third behind Brave Inca in 2006 and then fourth (beaten only 3 1/2 lengths behind Sublimity in the 2007 renewal.

Away from Cheltenham, Hughes' stable star plundered top prizes at both Punchestown and Ascot, where he proved equally effective over two-and-a-half miles in winning back-to-back runnings of the Ascot Hurdle.

Total prize money of over £1,088,000 puts Hardy Eustace right up there with some of the best champion hurdlers of the modern era. He heads off into the sunset as an absolute credit to the connections who did such a great job keeping him fit and enthusiastic for so long, as well as to himself for his guts, talent and tenacity.

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