Dual Champion Hurdle hero Hardy Eustace has died at the age of 27.
The hugely popular gelding was trained by the late Dessie Hughes to win 14 times in a 48-race career, including a trio of Cheltenham Festival victories.
Having landed the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park in 2003 under Kieran Kelly, he returned 12 months later to make all in the Champion Hurdle at 33-1, partnered by Conor O’Dwyer.
Hardy Eustace was a 7-2 joint-favourite for the same race in 2005 when showing tremendous battling qualities to get the better of Harchibald and Brave Inca in one of the most memorable Champion Hurdles of recent times.
He was retired from racing in 2009 and had been at the Irish National Stud since 2015.
Hardy Eustace’s owner, Lar Byrne, said: “It’s a very sad day to announce the passing of the legend Hardy Eustace.
“Hardy gave us so many special days out and will forever be remembered as a once in a lifetime horse for all the Byrne family.
“Hardy made us many special friends over his racing career and retirement. Thanks for all the great memories Hardy.”
Sandra Hughes, daughter of Dessie, stated: “Hardy was a horse of a lifetime for my dad. He was a beautiful horse with a huge heart who loved racing. We will cherish the memories.”
O’Dwyer added: “I am very sad to hear the sad news of his passing, but he had a wonderful life and wonderful retirement. He was a huge part of my career and it was an honour to be associated with him.”
Irish National Stud CEO Cathal Beale commented: “That era of Irish two-mile hurdlers; Hardy Eustace, Brave Inca, Harchibald, Macs Joy and others lives long in the memory and coincided with an upturn in Irish fortunes at Cheltenham that we still see today.
“He was a lovely, gentle horse who lived out his days receiving the greatest of care from all the team here. He will be deeply missed by everyone at the Irish National Stud.”