In a wide-open County Handicap Hurdle, Sandsend appeared to have a decent chance of winning a third race of his career as an 11/1 shot.
But, in the run for the line, Katie Walsh’s ride tripped and threw the jockey off into the barriers with what appeared to be a broken fore leg, suffered on the flat as opposed to over a fence, like the majority of racing injuries.
The rider, whose brother Ruby was ruled out of the Festival on Wednesday after aggravating an injury to a recently broken leg, got up and appeared unhurt but fans were left fearing the worst for Sandsend.
And Ed Chamberlin on ITV Racing was the one left with the unenviable task of breaking the news of the third horse death of the Festival to the nation.
“Desperately sad news,” Chamberlin said.
“Our thoughts are with everyone connected.”
Many racing fans took to Twitter to pay their respects to the dead horse.
“It always looks worse to me when a horse goes wrong like Sandsend did than when they fall, equally as heartbreaking but just looks worse,” one fan, 13Jonah, said.
Another, Mike Hall, said: “Looks like sandsend is still down, looked a broken leg. Absolutely gutting.”
Richard Salisbury wrote: “Poor old #sandsend looked horrific. Terribly sad. RIP”
Pete Wales said: “Very sad news… the part of national hunt racing we all hate… RIP Sandsend”
The five-year-old gelding, trained by Cheltenham legend Willie Mullins, was only racing for the fourth time in his career, having won at Naas on his last outing.
Animal Aid director Isobel Hutchinson said: “This devastating incident highlights the barbaric cruelty of this profit-driven “sport”.
“The brutal leg-break suffered by Sandsend was truly horrifying to witness. We can only imagine the agony and terror that he must have suffered, through no fault of his own.
“How many more horses will have to die, before action is taken to stem the tide of deaths? We believe that the current regulator simply isn’t fit for purpose, and urgently needs to be replaced with an organisation that has horse welfare as its priority.”