Former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander dies of a heart attack
Tributes have been paid by connections of former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander after he died of a heart attack on Thursday.
The 16-year-old, winner of National Hunt racing's blue riband event in 2010, died at Mount Top Stud in County Antrim where he had been based since retiring in 2013.
In a career that began on the racecourse proper in 2006, the former Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained gelding won eight races under rules, amassing more than £700,000 in prize-money.
Ian Robinson, founder of owners the Our Friends In The North Partnership, said: "He was full of himself this morning, he ate up and drank up then he had a heart attack. It was all over quickly. He didn't suffer, that was the main thing.
"At the end of the day when he was at his best he was brilliant. He was not the easiest to train and he had his issues, but when he was produced right he was almost impossible to beat.
"From start to finish we knew he was something special and more to the point he knew he was something special.
"He was bought to replace another of our horses called Bobby Dazzler who had died in a stable accident so I suppose in a way you could say he found us.
"It is very sad, but we just have to look at the memories he gave us and be thankful that we were involved in them. These horses are not easy to find."
Although triumphing at the highest level on three occasions, along with running in the 2013 Grand National on what was to be his penultimate start, he will be forever remembered for his victory in the Gold Cup.
In a race that had been billed as a battle between the Paul Nicholls-trained pair of Denman and Kauto Star, the talented but fragile Imperial Commander galloped on resolutely under Paddy Brennan to take the race by seven lengths and follow up his win in the previous year's Ryanair Chase.
Robinson added: "The 2010 Gold Cup victory was remarkable for lots of reasons.
"The race had its own particular narrative and he wrote the final chapter.
"It was a remarkable training performance by Nigel. He was not the soundest of horses, but on that day in 2010 he was at his fittest and he looked a picture.
"He was an exceptional jumper of fences, especially around Cheltenham. He loved being out in the country and Paddy Brennan got on with him brilliantly. The two had a really good partnership.
"He will leave a huge hold at Mount Top Stud and he will be buried in the corner of the field he loved being in, as that is where he was happiest.
"Horses like this become part of the family and it is like losing a family member. There is a sadness you can't explain and it is like closure on part of your life."
Twiston-Davies said: "It is very sad . He was one of the best horses that I ever had. He would be right near the top of that list. I'm devastated.
"He was always a brilliant horse from day one. He was just a supreme horse in the Gold Cup in 2010, although the year before he was special when he won the Ryanair.
"He was very fragile, but at his best he was brilliant and he would be near on unbeatable."