Many Clouds collapsed and died after narrowly beating Thistlecrack to win the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham’s Festival Trials Day.
King George winner Thistlecrack caught Many Clouds close to the finish but the 2015 Grand National winner, ridden by Leighton Aspell, fought back to win.
Many Clouds collapsed after the winning post and was treated by veterinary staff before he was pronounced dead.
Trainer Oliver Sherwood said the 10-year-old was the “horse of a lifetime”.
Many Clouds, owned by Trevor Hemmings, also won the Gold Cup trial in 2015 and the Hennessy Gold Cup in 2014.
“I always said he’d die for you, and he has today, doing what he loved most,” said Sherwood.
“He wanted to win that race, by God he wanted to win it – he was beat at the last and he fought the last 50 yards to get up and win.
“I’ve trained for 32 years now and horses like that don’t come along very often.”
Sherwood added he would “enjoy the memories” of Many Clouds’ successes and said his last race was “maybe the best career performance”.
Thistlecrack’s trainer Colin Tizzard described Many Clouds as a “lovely horse”.
“My initial thought when we got beat was that I was disappointed but it’s as sad as can be,” he said.
“They had a battle and it’s just a tragic end to the race. This is what happens in our sport occasionally and you’ve got to face up to it.”
Many Clouds had started the race at odds of 8-1, with Thistlecrack the 4-9 favourite.
‘Stunned silence and tears for a huge favourite’
BBC horse racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght:
I’m not sure I have ever known the mood on a racetrack change so fast.
One minute we were hailing a fantastic contest between two fabulous equine athletes, the next word was filtering back that the winner was “down”.
Memories of the horse needing oxygen and treatment immediately after his Grand National success sparked hopes all would ultimately be well, but then came the announcement over the loudspeaker system.
It led to stunned silence and tears for a huge favourite who demonstrated himself amongst the most talented steeplechasers of his generation, able to hold his own at the highest level as well as defy a huge weight to win the Grand National.