Emotional assistant trainer Sara Bradstock described Coneygree as a “miracle” horse after the decision was made to retire the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner.
The 12-year-old pulled up before the second last under his regular jockey Nico de Boinville, riding him for the first time this season, in the Listed Keltbray Swinley Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
A tearful Bradstock said: “He is here in one piece, and this is only fair on him.
“He is still up for it, and he can’t let himself down in that last bit. He has had a lot of injuries, and I think in the end they have come to tell.”
Home-bred Coneygree, trained by Bradstock’s husband Mark, raced just 18 times in an injury-interrupted but glorious career.
“He loves it and still thinks he is a racehorse,” she added.
“What happens now is it would be a case of finding the perfect ground on the perfect day – but we can’t risk him for that.
“You could see all the way round, instead of being able to cruise round, he was trying. He is a complete miracle, and he is still here – that is the most important thing.”
The last of Coneygree’s nine wins came more than three years ago, on his first start after claiming the Gold Cup.
But he had continued to run well up to this season, and Bradstock added: “He has been in such good form at home I actually quite fancied him.
“He has got pins in his hocks and has had stress fractures in every leg – but you know at some stage he is going to tell you ‘I don’t dare do it any more’.
“As you can see, he is hardly blowing and he is not stressed, and it is not like it is hard on him.”
Although a dual Grade Two winner over hurdles, it will be achievements over fences for which Coneygree will be remembered – and in particular his victory at Cheltenham when he became the first novice since Captain Christy in 1974 to win the Gold Cup.
Bradstock said: “When he won (the Kauto Star Novice Chase) at Kempton, and he just romped away from them, it was very exciting to suddenly realise how good he was.
“I almost don’t remember the Gold Cup – but it was incredible, because everyone said he couldn’t do it.
“What this horse is, is the king. He is not scared of anything.
“You could ride him down Pall Mall – he is not scared of anything – so the Gold Cup was never going to worry him.
“We gave it a go – and thank God we did. He was already fragile then and he had already had a stress fracture at that stage.”
Bradstock hopes that Coneygree, who amassed more than £500,000 in prize-money, will continue to have an active career away from the track.
“He will come home, and we will make sure he is okay – then we will do something with him.
“We might do a bit of the Retraining Of Racehorses (RoR) programme with him. There is a good home for him here – and he will never leave my side.”