Willoughby Court, who provided Ben Pauling with his first Cheltenham Festival winner when winning the 2017 Neptune Management Novices’ Hurdle, has sadly been euthanised after surgery.
The eight-year-old, owned by Paul and Clare Rooney, had been scheduled to make his reappearance at Newbury at the end of November but a joint infection in his hind joint ruled him out of that engagement.
This was flushed and everything seemed fine until ten days later when the same issue occurred and there was a seed of infection in the sesamoid bone.
Willoughby Court enjoys his finest hour at Cheltenham in 2017
“Unfortunately, the infection in the bone had flared up again and despite the best efforts of the fantastic team at Bourton Vale Equine Clinic, sadly we had no alternative but to put him down” Pauling revealed on Friday afternoon.
“Willoughby was a huge character around the yard. His brilliance was that he was that bit different and that bit sharper than any other horse I have ever trained.
"He was a fabulous jumper who very quickly became an incredibly tough competitor which was proven in many of his races, none more so than when he won the Neptune at Cheltenham.”
He added: “Being our first Festival winner will mean he’ll always be very fondly remembered. Frustratingly, he never actually had many races and we all felt that there was a huge amount of improvement to come.
Pauling reacts to Willoughby Court giving him his first Festival success
“Paul and Clare Rooney have been huge supporters of mine from a very early stage in my career and Willoughby was the first store horse they ever bought.
"They’ve been a huge support in every way possible for both Willoughby and the team back at home, and I really can’t thank them and Jason Maguire enough.
"We did everything we possibly could to save him, as even if he had never made the track again, Paul and Clare would have been delighted just to have him at home.
"Unfortunately, it just wasn’t to be despite everything that Bourton Vale Equine Clinic, Donnington Grove Vets and Graham Potts did to save him. He will be sorely missed by us all.”