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persian punch
Tragic death of Persian Punch

Star stayer Persian Punch died on Wednesday from a suspected heart attack after running in the Bovis Homes Sagaro Stakes at Ascot.

The most popular Flat horse in training collapsed in front of the stands after being pulled up 100 yards from the winning post by his rider Martin Dwyer.

The 11-year-old had, as usual, set out to make all the running in the Group Three contest, but he weakened quickly in the straight as Risk Seeker went on to score an easy victory.

Owned by Jeff Smith and trained by David Elsworth, the Persian Heights gelding won 20 of his 63 races, amassing a total of 1,008,785 in win and place prize money.

A distraught Elsworth said: "He was the most wonderful horse to train. It's so very sad."

Persian Punch's brave front-running style earned him thousands of fans and he was voted Horse of the Year by Racing Post readers after a marvellous season in 2003.

He gained three memorable victories by a short head, culminating in what turned out be his final triumph in the Jockey Club Cup last October. It was his third success in the Group Three contest at Newmarket.

As well as those three narrow wins last season, he galloped his rivals into the ground in the Group Two Doncaster Cup, scoring by seven lengths. His other big-race successes included two Goodwood Cups (2001 and 2003) and the Henry II Stakes (1997, 1998 and 2000).

Top jockey Frankie Dettori said: "Nobody can describe how we are feeling. We are all devastated."

Ascot's chief executive Douglas Erskine-Crum added: "It's hard to know what to say. It's just the saddest thing that could possibly have happened."

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