'You could see instantly he was gone by the look in his eyes' - Leighton Aspell on the tragic death of Many Clouds
Leighton Aspell described Many Clouds as "a jockey's dream" following the 2015 Grand National winner's death at Cheltenham on Saturday.
Aspell partnered the 10-year-old gelding in all of his 27 starts on a racecourse, including on that unforgettable day at Aintree when he delivered a stunning weight-carrying performance in the National.
But joy turned to despair at the weekend when Many Clouds collapsed and died following his defeat of Thistlecrack in the Cotswold Chase.
Aspell told the Times: "For him to have won the way he did was remarkable. The tank was empty but still he gave his all.
"Many Clouds emptied his tank for me many times, and kept coming back for more. He never flinched from a battle.
"It was a privilege to have been part of such a wonderful partnership. He has been wonderful for my career and we had some great times.
"He was the envy of the changing room. Everyone wanted to have a spin on Many Clouds. He was a jockey's dream.
"To have raced at such a high level and stay sound for as long as he did is remarkable and testament to him and his character."
Aspell said he was still "coming to terms with what happened", and that "something drastic happened internally" that led to Many Clouds' death.
He added: "After the line, as we pulled up, he felt as bright as a button, his ears were pricked.
"There was no hint of anything untoward. He was already in recovery mode after such a tough race and he seemed absolutely fine.
"We were circling round waiting for the course to clear and to be interviewed.
"Then suddenly he started getting wobbly in his hind legs. He sat down, then he lay down and died.
"I imagine he had a haemorrhage or ruptured an aorta or had a heart attack.
"You could see instantly he was gone by the look in his eyes and the colour of his gums. We lost him pretty quickly. The lights simply went out.
"I waited while the vets tried to save him, then said my goodbyes."
There had been concern over Many Clouds' well-being immediately after his Hennessy Gold Cup win of 2014 and when he claimed National glory, but he swiftly recovered on both occasions.
But Aspell said: "It felt different to previous times when he had had overheating problems.
"Before, it was immediately after he had crossed the line. This time it happened a good while after."