DARLAN, a leading contender for the Champion Hurdle, suffered a fatal fall at Doncaster on what should have been the final outing before the Cheltenham Festival for the Nicky Henderson-trained horse.
Lining up in the Listed 32Red Hurdle as an even-money favourite, Darlan looked a likely winner as he cruised to the last in the hands of Tony McCoy.
However, the Henderson runner met the hurdle all wrong and crashed to the ground.
Although McCoy escaped unscathed, he stood himself down for the rest of the day.
Lambourn trainer Henderson, who was visibly upset by the loss of his up-and-coming star, said: "It's some game, isn't it?
"Why is it always the good ones?"
Owned by JP McManus, Darlan was among the top rank as a novice last term and had been expected to prove a major rival for ante-post favourite Hurricane Fly at Cheltenham next month.
The six-year-old graduated to Grade One success when running away with the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
He is not the first star McManus has lost in tragic circumstances, with last year's Gold Cup winner Synchronised losing his life after a fall when running loose in last year's Grand National.
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