Nicky Richards hailed Monet’s Garden as “everything you could want in a racehorse” following the death of the hugely-popular grey on Tuesday night, aged 20.
The Roselier gelding won 17 of his 32 starts under rules, including three victories in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree.
He claimed the notable scalp of the great Kauto Star when securing the first of his Old Roan triumphs in 2007, and the race has been named in his honour since his retirement seven years ago.
Richards said: “Over the last fortnight we just felt he wasn’t quite himself and then yesterday he took a bit of a turn for the worse.
“The vet came out to see him at lunchtime and we gave him some painkillers around 5pm and hoped that would see him improve.
“I then went out to see him around 10pm and it was obvious things were going the wrong way, so the vet came back and examined him, we had a good chat and decided it wouldn’t be fair on the old horse to send him for more operations and what have you.”
Monet’s Garden was forced into retirement in 2011 after suffering a foot infection that led to him fighting for his life.
However, he eventually made a full recovery and made the last of several appearances at Aintree – alongside the trainer’s daughter Joey Richards, the horse’s long-time groom – on Old Roan Chase day less than a month ago.
“My daughter is devastated, as you can imagine,” Richards continued.
“She was just saying he was in great form at Aintree a weeks ago, so at least he hasn’t suffered for long.
“It’s a miracle he came through that foot injury he had about seven years ago and he’s had a good time since.
“David (Yates, owner) has had a lot of pleasure out of him even since he retired, as he’s been to country shows and won a retired racehorse class and obviously been back to Aintree.”
Richards was in no doubt when asked where Monet’s Garden ranked in the horses he has trained.
The Greystoke handler said: “He was very good at Aintree and beat Kauto Star there one day. He also won a couple of Ascot Chases, the Ascot Hurdle when it was run at Windsor and he also put that good French horse Mid Dancer in his place at Carlisle one day.
“He just had everything you could want in a racehorse. He could jump and gallop and was as game as a pebble.
“He’d have to be the best I’ve ever trained, for sure.”
Tony Dobbin partnered Monet’s Garden on each of the grey’s 23 starts before he retired from the saddle in 2008.
He said: “He was an unbelievable horse to ride and before I retired I was the only one to have ridden him, which was pretty cool.
“I won the Ascot Chase on him and we had some great days at Aintree. I remember the day he beat Kauto Star well. Obviously we were getting a good bit of weight and it was Kauto Star’s first run of the season.
“I set out to make the running and could hear Ruby (Walsh) coming up behind me turning into the straight and I was thinking ‘here we go again’, as I’d finished second to Kauto Star a lot. He couldn’t get by Monet’s Garden that day, though.
“He was definitely up there with the best jumpers I’ve ridden. He was so fast and slick and he was like that from day one. I remember watching him school over some tyres as a three-year-old in Greystoke and he was brilliant even then – he was exceptional.
“It’s a sad day, but he had a great life and Joey looked after him brilliantly. I know she’ll be gutted, as she absolutely loved him.”