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Death of prolific Gunner B, aged 30; Suspected heart failure claims sire of Red Marauder and Royal Gait.

Byline: David Carr

Gunner B, who was thought to be the oldest active thoroughbred stallion in Europe, has died on the eve of his 25th breeding season.

The remarkable horse, whose offspring included Grand National winner Red Marauder and champion hurdler Royal Gait, was 30.

"He died in his box on Saturday," said Peter Hockenhull, owner of Shade Oak Stud in Shropshire where Gunner B had stood for the past 13 years. "It was quite peaceful and there wasn't a lot of struggle. It had all the classic signs of heart failure.

"It is extremely sad and his lass Sue Titley is devastated, as she has looked after him for 13 years.

"He has been buried at the stud. He put us on the map - he's practically built this place."

Gunner B was a high-class performer on the Flat, winning the Diomed Stakes and finishing second in the Dante Stakes for Geoff Toft before moving to Henry Cecil and gaining the biggest victory of his

career in the Eclipse at Sandown in 1978. He also won the Earl of Sefton Stakes, Brigadier Gerard Stakes and Prince of Wales's Stakes that season.

He finished out of the first three only six times in 33 races and Hockenhull believes it was that resilience that made him such a success at stud.

"That toughness was equally, if not more, shown in his lesser horses - a Gunner B would always win a race somewhere, somehow," he said.

"Look at his son Gilderdale, who ran in over 100 races from two to 13 and then appeared in the Queen's pageant last year."

Earlier this month, Gunner B won Thoroughbred Breeders' Association awards for top British-based active National Hunt stallion by prize-money won and number of individual chase winners - both for the third year in a row - and he had been due to cover mares again this season.

"He had the vet out just twice in 13 years since he came here in 1989 and he was in better shape this year than at any time since he had colic two years ago," Hockenhull said.

"He covered 20 mares last year and got 12 in-foal - one has since died but there may be nine or ten foals. He would have carried on this year, as the physical side of covering was not a problem, though with his age he did have declining fertility."

Gunner B started out as a Flat stallion at Limestone Stud and had a spell in Germany before moving to Shade Oak in the wake of Royal Gait's runaway win in the 1988 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot - though he was subsequently disqualified.

Other notable progeny include dual Tommy Whittle Chase winner Bobby Grant and promising novice hurdler Iris's Gift.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 21, 2003
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