Nico de Boinville paid tribute to Coneygree for helping to put his name on the map after a decision was made to retire the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner at Ascot on Saturday.
The 29-year-old hailed the Mark Bradstock-trained gelding as “honest, genuine and an athlete” 24 hours after pulling him up in a Listed event at the Berkshire track, in what was to be the final race of his glittering but injury-hit career.
De Boinville said: “He did wonders for me and it was great to be part of the Bradstock operation and he had a great set of owners as well. He gave me some fantastic memories.
“I know him as well as anyone and he told me coming up that hill at Ascot he had no more to give.
“If you retire in one piece, it is like jockeys as well, it is a bonus. He was honest, genuine and while he could be a handful, all in all he was just a real athlete.”
While it was over fences that Coneygree excelled, De Boinville feels the work of weighing-room colleague Mattie Batchelor, who guided him to two Grade Two wins over hurdles, was an equally-important part of his career.
He added: “You mustn’t forget his hurdling career, as that is when Mattie Batchelor rode him during that time.
“He gave him a great education and taught him how to be a racehorse, really. I took over when he went over fences and was lucky to have that great novice season.”
Getting a feel for a horse can take time, but for De Boinville he was quick to realise that in Coneygree he was working with an exceptionally talented performer.
He said: “Originally we planned to run at Plumpton (for chasing debut in November 2014), but he got down to the start and was withdrawn which was unfortunate.
“It forced our hands to go to Newbury. He was seriously impressive that day and felt like an older horse.
“The way the Bradstocks train their horses and school them, if there was ever a horse to go straight to the Gold Cup as a novice it was always him.
“I only rode out my claim in the February of that year, so I suppose I was fairly naive and inexperienced. I was just there to enjoy the ride.”
Although De Boinville has been fortunate enough to enjoy a number of high-profile victories on the likes of Altior, Sprinter Sacre and Might Bite, his victory in the Gold Cup is one that is unlikely to ever be forgotten.
He added: “It is a race etched in the memory. It was so straightforward – but the way he liked to be ridden was so straightforward.
“It was a gruelling race – you only have to look at the horses that finished in behind to see that – but what an amazing race it was.
“It was a great stepping stone and a day I will never forget. We all dream of winning the Gold Cup and for that to happen so early in my career was amazing – it helped me to get where I am today.”