Big Buck’s, the winner of four Ladbrokes World Hurdles, was retired after finishing fifth in the Cheltenham showpiece on day three of the Festival.
Trained by Paul Nicholls and owned by Andy Stewart, the 11-year-old was denied an almost-certain fifth stayers’ crown last season through injury, having to miss Cheltenham.
He returned after 420 days off the track to be third in the Cleeve Hurdle at January, and had been expected to improve markedly on that effort.
But it was not to be as youngsters More Of That, the winner, and Annie Power fought out the finish to the three-mile championship.
Nicholls immediately announced his racing career was over.
Big Buck’s was taken straight to the stables following the race, but after his retirement was confirmed, the ever-popular runner returned to the paddock to say farewell with one last walk around the ring.
Nicholls said: “He’s going to have an honourable retirement, it’s a sad day but it’s good to end in one piece.
“Andy and I have been talking about it and I couldn’t improve him any more on what he’s done today. We won’t ask him to run again as he’s been a wonderful horse and wonderful for racing.”
Nicholls went on: “Younger legs beat him today. I could see halfway round we were in a bit of trouble and retirement is the right thing to do.
“He wasn’t jumping quite as fluently and his legs aren’t quite what they were.
“He’s been a legend. You can see how hard it is to win four World Hurdles, let alone trying to win five when they are a bit older and have had some problems.
“We gave it a go. That’s what we wanted to do, but you have to be sensible and draw stumps at the right time and now is that time.
“He’ll have a lovely home now and be well looked after.
“To run him again would be madness and it’s not that emotional (to retire him).
“I’m delighted, to be honest. I would hate to see him run round getting beaten and for anything to happen to him.
“It’s been awesome.”