“Our Duke was back in his box after morning exercise. Robert [Power] had been cantering him. It appears he suffered a heart attack, and died”.
Jessica Harrington broke the news devastating news via her twitter in April 2018 that yard favourite, Our Duke unfortunately suffered a heart attack in his stable. He was just a sprightly 8-year-old entering the peak of his career.
His dazzling career began back in 2015 at Punchestown. He ran away with a national hunt flat race by a wide 21 lengths. Made even more special as he was ridden by Harrington’s daughter Kate. He would then collide with Death Duty and come out second best, but his career was never going to be defined by the early stages of his development. He was always going to be a chaser, so whatever he did accomplish over hurdles was a bonus – More of an education procedure.
His long-awaited chase debut would come along at Navan on a frosty December afternoon. Our Duke blitzed them in the beginner’s chase by 11 lengths, but we got shown the first sign of his jumping frailties. His sights were raised later that month when he won his first grade 1. It was a battle to remember with Our Duke getting up close home from Coney Island and Disko. Although Disko would get vengeance the next time they met.
It was on 17th April 2017 when Our Duke would have his finest hour. Connections resisted the temptation that is the Cheltenham Festival and instead opted for the Irish Grand National. He had a beautiful race weight of 11 stone 4 and was sent off the 9-2 favourite. Always prominent before hitting the front 4-5 fences from home. Robbie Power sent Our Duke in search of the finishing line and he was a vanishing target for his all his rivals. He galloped them into submission. It was a fine training performance. Robbie Power was pure class and grit in the saddle as he allowed Our Duke to find a rhythm and jump at pace before using his staying powers to run away with the race.
After this Our Duke would grace the racecourse 4 more times winning once. Last seen pulling up in the Gold Cup. After his Irish National win, he was being talked up to be serious contender to stable mates Sizing Johns throne to Gold Cup Glory. Unfortunately, back problems meant we never saw the best of Our Duke in what turned out to be his final season.
Our Duke was one hell of a racehorse. Duke by name and duke by nature. His lack of respect for a fence made him a handful of a ride but while his errors would have stopped 90% of horses, he shrugged them off and battled on with the race.
He was a reservoir of a horse with a heart to match. Let’s not remember Our Duke for his final race. Let’s remember that young 5-year-old who was destined for top over fences. That 7-year-old who reached the top over fences. His Irish National win was the real Our Duke! A race which will be displayed on TV for many years to come. A demolition job!