Many Clouds collapses and dies just moments after beating Thistlecrack in Cheltenham thriller
Trainer Oliver Sherwood paid tribute to the "horse of a lifetime" after Many Clouds tragically collapsed and died following his shock defeat of Thistlecrack in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham.
Owned by Trevor Hemmings, the former Grand National hero was winning the race for a second time, having also claimed the recognised Gold Cup trial before his Aintree heroics in 2015.
Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack made several jumping errors on his way round, but came back on the bridle for Tom Scudamore jumping the last.
The Colin Tizzard-trained King George winner went clear on the run-in, but the gallant Many Clouds - who also landed the Hennessy Gold Cup in 2014 - would not go away.
But having answered every call for jockey Leighton Aspell, the 8-1 winner, who got home by a head, collapsed after the winning post, being treated immediately by veterinary staff before his death was confirmed.
Sherwood said: "We've got to look forward and not look back. He's been the horse of a lifetime and I always said he would die for you and he's died for me and the team today doing what he does best.
"He wanted to win that race, he was beaten and then fought back in the last 50 yards to win.
"It's sad for Trevor and my team at Rhonehurst, I've been in the game 32 years and horses like that don't come along very often.
"You've got to enjoy it and it happens to us all, we all go one day. We've got to be philosophical and celebrate the Hennessy and National wins and that was almost a career-best performance.
"One thing I want now is for Thistlecrack to win the Gold Cup."
He added: "It's a tough game and a great leveller - I feel sorry for Leighton Aspell and everyone involved with the horse. Leighton was the only one who'd schooled and ridden him in a race, but life goes on.
"The public get to know the horses, especially horses that try for you, they appreciated what he had done and he captured your imagination, really.
"It was quite spine-chilling when it was announced, there was a huge clap and that nearly finished me off.
"I had two large vodka and tonics to relax me and I've not had a drink for two months.
"When Lisa (Kozak, travelling head girl) rang me to say he'd gone down, I was worried. Time will tell if it was a heart attack."
A sombre Tizzard said: "We were just beaten by the better horse on the day, two fantastic horses ran right to the line.
"Poor old Many Clouds. My initial thought when we got beat was that I was disappointed but it's as sad as can be, he was a lovely horse and he beat us on the day.
"We ran our race, we're not making any excuses - today, on winter ground, we were beaten by a better horse, no question.
"They had a battle and it's just a tragic end to the race. This is what happens in our sport occasionally and you've got to face up to it."
Nathan Horrocks, who rides Many Clouds on the gallops, told Racing UK: "It's a shock, from shouting him home to 10 minutes later he's not even with us.
"He's a massive loss for everybody, he's of huge importance to the yard but also to Lambourn and the sport.
"He captured the nation, but that is our sport - it makes us love it and hate it.
"What was great about him, and was also his downfall, was that he didn't know when to quit."