PERSIAN PUNCH 1993-2004
Owner: Jeff Smith
Trainer: David Elsworth
20 wins from 63 races
Total prize money: £1,008,785
Popular Flat racing horse Persian Punch has died of a suspected heart attack at Ascot racecourse.
The 11-year-old, who recently came seventh in a poll to find the most popular racehorse of all time, collapsed in front of the stands after being pulled up just before the end of a two-mile race.
In a sport in which few horses compete beyond the age of five, Persian Punch was a folk hero of Flat racing.
Last year the horse, who was trained by David Elsworth, won four races to take his winnings past the £1m mark.
His jockey Martin Dwyer said he was "absolutely gutted" while owner Jeff Smith added: "It's just absolutely devastating - just a terrible
Persian Punch, whose game front-running style earned him a large fan club, won 20 races during his long career.
The gelding was voted Horse of the Year by Racing Post readers after a marvellous season in
He gained three memorable victories by a short head, culminating in what
turned out be his final triumph in the Jockey Club Cup last October.
It was his third success in the Group Three contest at Newmarket.
As well as those three narrow wins last season, he galloped his rivals into
the ground in the Group Two Doncaster Cup, scoring by seven lengths.
His other big-race successes included two Goodwood Cups (2001 and 2003) and
the Henry II Stakes (1997, 1998 and 2000).
He was unable to cap an illustrious career with a Group One win, but he did
finish second in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in 2001 and last year.
"I think everybody loved him because he was a fighter," said Dwyer.
knew when to give in. He was a great horse, even though he wasn't winning Group
"He always did it the hard way, always fought back when he looked beat. He
was such a brave horse. He is a great loss."
Dwyer's weighing room colleagues also paid tribute to Persian Punch.
"Nobody can describe how we are feeling. We
are all devastated," said Frankie Dettori.
"I saw Martin in
tears and I tried to cheer him up, but what can you say?
"Persian Punch has been a great servant for the sport with his longevity and the fact
that he never ran a bad race. He had that fire in him.
"He never knew when he was beat and people really respected that. It's a very