Trainer pays tribute to 2017 Cheltenham Festival winner

Barry Connell has paid tribute to 2017 Cheltenham Festival winner Tully East.

The ten-year-old was pulled up on his return from 500 days off the track at Gowran Park on September 2.

It was found the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase hero from three years ago had fractured a cannon bone.

"His rider said he took a bad step and pulled him up," Connell said.

"We got him home and up to the vets. They operated on him but unfortunately the damage was too severe.

"It's ironic really, he has jumped hurdles and fences for years and picked up an injury in a Flat race."

Tully East was contesting a 1m 6f maiden on soft to heavy ground when his race ended around six furlongs from the finish.

As well as winning at National Hunt racing's top meeting when trained by Alan Fleming, the son of Shantou performed admirably in several other races there.

Sent off at 50/1 for the 2016 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle, he was in front turning for home and eventually finished fourth.

The talented handicapper was ninth in the 2019 Coral Cup – but he lost all chance when encountering an interrupted passage on the final downhill stretch.

"We were hoping to get Tully East ready for Cheltenham again," Connell continued.

"He always ran so well there.

"Everyone wants winners at The Festival and it's something to find a horse good enough to run.

"The atmosphere is incredible, there's nowhere like it.

"We were lucky to have had him for five seasons.

"He had a very successful career."

Connell took out his training licence in the summer after 27 years of racehorse ownership, with quality performers Our Conor, Martello Tower and The Tullow Tank winning big races in his yellow and navy silks.

The former amateur rider has sent out ten runners so far from his base near The Curragh – and could get off the mark with a trio of contenders at Downpatrick on Friday.

Big King showed improved form for his new stable 24 days ago and holds leading claims in the opening Toals Bookmakers Maiden Hurdle.

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