Racing stops to pay respects to Carol, Hannah and Louise Hunt

Newmarket fell silent before the opening day of the July Festival as racing showed its support for commentator John Hunt.

Hunt’s wife Carol and daughters Hannah and Louise were found fatally injured at a house in the quiet cul-de-sac of Ashlyn Close in Bushey, Hertfordshire, on Tuesday evening.

A show of strength in times of trouble is commonplace in the close-knit racing community and there was a minute’s silence ahead of the first race as Hunt’s media colleagues and friends joined members of the weighing room in the paddock to pay their respects.

The opening day of the July Festival often signals the arrival of the height of summer, but it was a day when results on the track felt immaterial to many.

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That was shown in the opening contest, where after seeing Ancient Wisdom put himself in the St Leger picture, the thoughts of trainer Charlie Appleby turned to Hunt and those closest to him.

Close family friend Lea Holloway, (centre) leaves flowers at Ashlyn Close, Bushey, Hertfordshire
Close family friend Lea Holloway, (centre) leaves flowers at Ashlyn Close, Bushey, Hertfordshire (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“I’d just like to say also that all of our thoughts are with John Hunt, it was a very sad day yesterday,” said Appleby.

“All of our thoughts, in racing and of Godolphin, are with John at this time.”

Jockeys at the fixture sported black armbands, with Oisin Murphy adding: “We had a minute’s silence before the first race. To John Hunt and all his family and friends, I am really very sorry for what happened and we’re all thinking about you.”

Hunt is not only a long and distinguished commentator, leading the BBC 5 Live coverage and presenting on Sky Sports Racing, but also one of the most popular members of the press room.

Three candles burn as members of the public attend a morning service and vigil at St James’s church in Bushey, following the deaths of Carol, Hannah and Louise Hunt
Three candles burn as members of the public attend a morning service and vigil at St James’s church in Bushey, following the deaths of Carol, Hannah and Louise Hunt (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Lead commentator Richard Hoiles made an emotional statement at the start of ITV’s coverage, saying “words just seem hollow and inadequate in such circumstances”.

Speaking prior to racing, he said: “It is impossible to rationalise such a heinous, pointless and terrible act in modern-day society.

“I’ve known John for 30 years, we started out together and during that time he’s become one of the most respected and liked members of the press room because of his fantastic ability in racing but also other sports, such as swimming for the BBC at the Olympics.

“He is liked because of his easy-going personality, his good sense of humour, his excellent company. If you spend just a few moments in his company, the odds are that the talk will turn to family.

“There are plenty of people in the press room who I have no idea of their family, but we all felt we knew Carol and the girls, perhaps far better than we actually did.

“It was folklore that after our annual shindig at Christmas, 20-odd years ago, we’d all retired to the local pub and out would come John’s wallet with pictures of the girls at primary school and he’d share them with random bar staff and anyone else who would care to listen.

“In the helter-skelter of modern life, it is quite easy to lose track of the things we hold dear, but John never has. I know I hugged my kids tighter last night knowing that simple pleasure has been snatched away from one of mine and the press room’s greatest friends.

“Words just seem hollow and inadequate in such circumstances, but all we can try and do is provide some crumb of comfort by trying to exhibit the warmth and respect in which John and his family are held.”



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Racing TV’s Nick Luck also offered his condolences, saying: “Clearly uppermost in everybody’s minds are the truly horrific events of the last couple of days in Bushey in Hertfordshire, and racing’s thoughts are very much with one of their favourite people, John Hunt – such a kind man, his family dealt the cruellest fate imaginable.

“We are very much thinking of you John and your daughter Amy.”

Sophie Able, Newmarket Racecourses and International Director for The Jockey Club, said: “Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with John Hunt, his loved ones and friends during this unimaginably difficult time.

“John is a hugely popular member of the press room and a dear friend to so many in the horseracing industry. We held a minute’s silence at Newmarket today to show our support for John and his family and we thank everyone who joined us in doing so.”

A minute’s silence was held at Doncaster racecourse, with riders also having worn black armbands at Wednesday’s evening fixtures.

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