Fitting farewell for ‘freak’

Owner William Frewen, left, and jockey Tom Scudamore, right, celebrate a second National Spirit Hurdle win with Lough Derg in 2009

Owner William Frewen, left, and jockey Tom Scudamore, right, celebrate a second National Spirit Hurdle win with Lough Derg in 2009

The sun ought to shine for Fontwell's Thursday afternoon racing

Irish raiders among the Fontwell fields

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Fontwell favourite Lough Derg is set for a fitting farewell.

David Pipe announced the 11-year-old’s retirement at the end of last month.

The Somerset trainer made the tough decision to call time on a stunning career after he was pulled up in the Grade 2 Coral Hurdle at Ascot.

And next weekend, the son of Apple Tree will return to the Berkshire course so racing fans can say goodbye to a hero of the modern era.

The French-bred gelding ran into the hearts of Fontwell fans when he fought back from an impossible position to win the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle in 2008.

Hard ridden down the back straight – before approaching the second-to-last hurdle 12 lengths adrift of the leaders – he was seemingly beaten.

But, as was characteristic of his entire career, he refused to give up and fought back to overhaul My Way De Solzen by two lengths.

The miraculous performance reduced his jockey Tom Scudamore to tears as he met the press in the winner’s enclosure shortly afterwards.

And 12 months later, Lough Derg returned to become the first horse since Vagador in 1990 to win Fontwell’s richest race twice.

Scudamore described him as a ‘freak’ after defending his title, insisting there was no other like him in training.

The rider was sadly banned for their hat-trick bid in 2010 – Christian Williams partnering the champion to fifth.

But he did share a further six wins with Lough Derg.

Their biggest victory was one of three at Ascot, as he beat an all-star cast – including Hardy Eustace, Black Jack Ketchum and Kasbah Bliss – with an awesome front-running show in the 2007 Long Walk Hurdle.

And it is before the same Grade 1 feature that he will be paraded next Saturday.

Lough Derg’s owner William Frewen, who often spoke of his love of Fontwell but described Ascot as the horse’s home, said: ‘The (career) highlight has to be the Long Walk Hurdle.

‘It was brilliant planning by David and a great tactical ride by Tom on a horse at his peak.

‘For me, it was a mixture of sheer astonishment and utter joy.’

His second National Spirit Hurdle win was Lough Derg’s final win in a career spanning 61 races and nine seasons.

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