Final farewell to National Hunt superstar

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  • A National Hunt racehorse who built up a huge following has been put down at the age of 26.

    Edredon Bleu won 12 of his 26 races with trainer Henrietta Knight and over £700,000 for owner Jim Lewis, with victories including the Queen Mother Chase at Cheltenham in 2000 with AP McCoy.

    And in 2003 he triumphed in the King George V1 Chase at Kempton.

    “Everyone said he wouldn’t adapt to going a mile further but my husband, Terry Biddlecombe, always said Bleu would stay three miles,” Henrietta said.

    His other successes included the 2003 Clonmel Oil Chase under Jim Culloty and four Peterborough Chases in a row at Huntington, a record for any one horse.

    But the winning formula did not start straight away.

    Bleu arrived in Knight’s yard as a four-year-old from France where he had won four novice chases.

    “The first year was a disaster,” said Henrietta. “He took a long time to get used to British fences and ran three times badly. We turned him away for a summer at grass and he came back a new horse.”

    Barely 16.1hh but armed with strong legs and a big heart, Bleu was always a favourite in the yard.

    An individual who “liked to do things on his own” the racehorse preferred to exercise without any others around him. In the field he was always bossed by the other horses especially Best Mate, who he was turned out with.

    When he was retired from racing aged 12, Claire Thorner, who worked for Henrietta, offered him a home.

    The family lived four miles away at Letcombe Regis near Wantage and Bleu quickly adapted to his new life as a cherished hack and hunter with the Thorner family.

    In Cheltenham Festival week he was sometimes lured back to the paddock to lead the Champion Chase parade.

    The year after he won the King George V1 on Boxing Day the sponsors asked Henrietta if Bleu could parade around the monument at Hyde Park Corner to promote the 2004 race.

    Knight’s lorry was allowed to park nearby and Bleu walked round with his stable girl Jackie Jenner without flinching at the midday traffic.

    “He behaved perfectly and was an absolute gentleman,” said Henrietta, who keeps a photograph of the occasion in her office.

    Continues below…

    Recently Bleu had started to feel his age and on the vet’s advice was put down at the end of September.

    “He’d had a wonderful life. It was kinder to put him down before the start of another winter,” said his trainer.

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