Darlan suffers fatal fall
Rock On Ruby claimed the Listed 32Red Hurdle at Doncaster as even-money favourite Darlan suffered a fatal fall at the last flight.
The pair were settling down to battle it out and the Nicky Henderson-trained Darlan was travelling particularly well under Tony McCoy.
However, he met the last all wrong and crashed to the ground as Rock On Ruby (13-8) pushed on for a three-length victory over Countrywide Flame.
While McCoy escaped unscathed, Darlan sustained a fatal injury.
Henderson said: "It's some game isn't it? Why is it always the good ones?"
Darlan was among the top rank as a novice last term and had been expected to prove a major rival for Hurricane Fly in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next month.
A faller two flights from home in last year's Betfair Hurdle, he bounced back with a second in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle before going on to Grade Two glory at Aintree.
The six-year-old graduated to Grade One success when running away with the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Darlan had jumped impressively up until the final flight, as Countrywide Flame set the pace, with Rock On Ruby sat on his heels.
Rock On Ruby began his challenge at the top of the straight as Noel Fehily pushed to the front, with Darlan tracking his every move.
Countrywide Flame was soon slightly outpaced and Darlan looked to be cantering in behind, only to step at the last when looking a likely winner.
Fehily said: "He's done everything we wanted him to do and he'll definitely come on for it.
"He had a good blow from the back of the last.
"It's obviously disappointing to see the other horse fall like that, but we've been in front plenty long enough and he's idling up the straight.
"He's where we want him going to Cheltenham now. His best form is around Cheltenham and he goes there now with confidence up.
"If he's good enough on the day, he'll be bang there again."