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‘His bar invoice was extortionate!’ Unhappy farewell to 38-year-old ex-racehorse who loved a Guinness a day

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  • The owner of a former racehorse who died this month aged 38 – having enjoyed a daily Guinness for years – has paid tribute to a horse who may have been the country’s oldest thoroughbred.

    Jill Conway’s Kurdish Prince, who raced on the Flat and over hurdles, died on 6 October, when his great heart finally gave out.

    “I knew he couldn’t live for ever but it still came as a shock,” Jill said. “I’ve got stables in the back garden and he passed away under the cherry tree. He was where he wanted to be.”

    Jill had owned Prince for over 35 years; she told H&H she was one of a syndicate of four who owned him in his racing days.

    “I was given one leg of him for my birthday,” she said. “He fractured the top of one leg when he was 23, and I thought that was probably the one I was bought!”

    Prince did not have huge success in his first career – “I don’t think he liked racing that much,” Jill said – and when he was seven, she took him on and they enjoyed dressage and jumping.

    Kurdish Prince as a four-year-old, with jockey Stevie Dawson

    “He was quite a character,” Jill said. “He used to go on mad bucking sprees; corkscrewing in gallop, and if he didn’t like someone who rode him, they couldn’t even get him to walk. We’d have mad rides in Epping Forest, in the dark under the moon.

    “I ended up in a yard associated with the Badminton estate and we use to ride round there. I’ve had the most amazing riding with him, and through him met amazing people, who have become lifelong friends.”

    Prince, who Jill said was nicknamed Turdish Prince by racing staff as he was so dirty in the stable, enjoyed many happy years with Jill. Vets thought when he fractured his shoulder some 15 years ago that he would have to be put down, but “I told them ‘He’s not ready to go yet!’” Jill said. He recovered to continue enjoying ridden work until he was about 33.

    He lived his latter years in a field opposite Jill’s house.

    “He had three big meals a day; he’d lost quite a few teeth so it was all soft food, and his can of Guinness every day for years – his bar bill was extortionate!” Jill said. “His field was right opposite the pub so I always felt like the evening entertainment, with my pink wheelbarrow, his food and the Guinness.”

    Prince’s final service to his owner came after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February.

    “It was so odd; when I had my first chemo treatment, I went to see him and his head shot up,” Jill said. “He came marching over and was fussing, then when I walked away, he marched along with me.

    “He knew something was wrong and he kept me going through everything. I had major surgery and was in hospital nine or 10 days, and when I came out he was so pleased to see me. He kept going till October, then his heart just gave out.

    “He’d lived with various friends in his field but seemed to outlive them all; I think his best friends became the deer and foxes. The deer would be in the field with him and I used to see fox cubs playing round his feet, which was lovely.

    “I think he had me well and truly under his hoof but he was very special, and a very hard act to follow.”

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