Un De Sceaux was one of a kind and changed the lives of his owners the O'Connells from Glanmire

Un De Sceaux was one of a kind and changed the lives of his owners the O'Connells from Glanmire
2018 Fairyhouse Racing Festival, Fairyhouse Racecourse, Co. Meath 2/4/2018 The Devenish SteeplechasePaul Townend onboard Un De Sceaux comes home to win the raceMandatory Credit ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

THE recent news that Un De Sceaux had been retired following picking up an injury that ruined his chance of competing with the best in the Queen Mother Chase at the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival was met with sheer disappointment by the Glanmire based O’Connell family.

Speaking to The Echo Colm O’Connell expressed the sadness that that engulfed his family since receiving the news.

“The journey was just an incredible one and as one of our travelling party said to me today it was the best seven year stag party that he ever experienced,” said Colm O’Connell.

Winning a total of 1.75m in prizemoney is remarkable but Colm took the opportunity to thank everybody that helped live the dream during the Un De Sceaux era.

Un De Sceaux with owner Edward O'Connell after winning the Red Mills Trial Hurdle. Gowran Park, Gowran, Co. Kilkenny. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE
Un De Sceaux with owner Edward O'Connell after winning the Red Mills Trial Hurdle. Gowran Park, Gowran, Co. Kilkenny. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

“To our supporters, Willie Mullins and to Virginia Bascop who looked after him over his incredible career many thanks as we have memories that will never leave our hearts,” added O’Connell.

Ruby Walsh says Un De Sceaux had "freakish enthusiasm" which he never lost right up until his last piece of work on Thursday morning.

The evergreen 12-year-old, who won 23 of his 34 starts, suffered a suspensory ligament injury on Thursday as he continued his preparation for the Queen Mother Champion.

Walsh was in the saddle for 16 of his 23 wins, including his Ryanair success at the festival in 2017, and he recalled the very first time the pair teamed up at Punchestown back in February 2013.

Ruby was in the saddle for 15 of his wins, including his Ryanair success at the festival in 2017, and he recalled the very first time the pair teamed up at Punchestown back in February 2013.

Walsh said: "He was just a wonderful horse. I remember the first time he won for us, a maiden hurdle at Punchestown, I had broken my nose in the previous race on (Apt Approach).

“My face was covered in blood, but I just had to ride him in the next.

"It was like being back in pony club on the way down to the start as I simply couldn’t hold on to him.

“I just had to keep doing circle after circle with him and each one smaller than the last to try and get him to stop and to be honest that freakish enthusiasm never left him.

“Usually age tempers enthusiasm for everyone, but it didn’t with Un De Sceaux as he had it from the very start right up until his last piece of work.” Cork jockey Paul Townend, who partnered Un De Sceaux to two top-level triumphs was also very sad when the news filtered through to him.

"Un De Sceaux has had a brilliant career and it was amazing for the O’Connell family in Cork to come across a horse like him.

Jockey Paul Townend with trainer Willie Mullins after winning with Un De SceauxMandatory Credit ©INPHO/Bryan Keane
Jockey Paul Townend with trainer Willie Mullins after winning with Un De SceauxMandatory Credit ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

“Unfortunately he probably wasn’t at his best on his last run at Ascot but his run before that was very good at Sandown, and also at Punchestown in April when he won the Champion Chase.

“He performed at the highest of levels for a long time so will be badly missed as horses with that ability are very hard to replace.

"My favourite memory was definitely the Champion Chase at Punchestown last year when he beat Min and that was the best feeling I’ve ever got off him.

“The real Un De Sceaux turned up that day as he was a proper two-mile chaser and he really lived on the edge,” said Paul Townend.

Meanwhile, Willie Mullins described Un De Sceaux as a "once-in-a-lifetime horse" as he confirmed the multiple Grade One-winner's retirement following injury.

The career-ending problem was discovered after the 12-year-old worked on Thursday morning.

Un De Sceaux finished outside the first two just once in 21 completed runs over fences - the majority of which were in Grade One company.

"Right up to the end, he was trying to impersonate a four-year-old," said Mullins.

"He worked great yesterday morning, but you could see on pulling up that he wasn't right, and it was confirmed this morning that he had a ligament injury."

Un De Sceaux has been among the brightest stars at Mullins' powerhouse stable since arriving from France seven years ago.

The champion Irish trainer added: "He's been a huge star in our yard and he'll be hugely missed.

"You can't replace horses like him - it's impossible. He was a once-in-a-lifetime horse, and we were very lucky to have him.

"It was incredible how sound he was, because he was so hard on himself, and every day he gave his best in racing and in training.

"He had a huge following. The owners (the O'Connell family) have Bachasson to go to the (Cheltenham) Festival with this year in the Coral Cup, and hopefully they can look forward to that."

Un De Sceaux ends his career having won 23 of 34 races under rules and more than £1,500,000 in prize money.

The opening day of the Punchestown Festival. Winning connections of Un De Sceaux, winner of the BoyleSports Champion Chase at Punchestown. Picture: Patrick Browne
The opening day of the Punchestown Festival. Winning connections of Un De Sceaux, winner of the BoyleSports Champion Chase at Punchestown. Picture: Patrick Browne

He ran at five Cheltenham Festivals, winning the Arkle in 2015 and the Ryanair in 2017.

Owner Edward O'Connell's son, Colm, said: "When I got the call from Willie I had to pull the car over.

"It was always going to happen - this day was always going to come - but we'd planned to go to Cheltenham and retire him on the spot. But then you never know when to do it as if he was beaten a length we might have been tempted to go to Punchestown.

"He'll go back to France in a couple of months. Ginnie (Virginia Bascop) who looks after him has a plan to take him back there. You don't put Eric Cantona in a nursing home.

"No one has died, it's just that when he's been around for so long - not just a year or two - it's very hard to take.

"This would have been his sixth consecutive Cheltenham Festival. He won the Arkle, ran in the Queen Mother, won the Ryanair and has been in another two Ryanairs.

"He was going to run in the Queen Mother this year and Patrick (Mullins) was going to ride him. We quite fancied him to run really well given the ground.

"Whenever he ran we took over 30 people from Cork with us, it was like a syndicate. We certainly enjoyed it, we knew we'd never get another like him so we made sure of that.

"I don't think Willie has ever had a horse like him."

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