The world of horse racing has paid tribute to Sprinter Sacre after confirmation that the 10-year-old star steeplechaser, who was expected to return to action at December's Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, has now been retired after suffering a minor tendon strain.
Trainer Nicky Henderson announced the news in an emotional press conference held at Cheltenham on Sunday (13 November), revealing that a scan had shown up "a little bit of heat" in his near-fore and that, given his age, retiring him was the "right thing to do".
French-bred Sprinter Sacre amassed more than £1.1m ($1.3m) in prize money during a glittering career that included 14 wins from 18 starts over fences.
The "Black Aeroplane" provided one of the most memorable performances in Cheltenham Festival history back in 2013, a blistering 19-length Queen Mother Champion Chase win over Sizing Europe.
The horse memorably beat Un De Sceaux to win the prestigious race for a second time back in March – a long-awaited return to form after health problems a year ago – with victory in the Shloer Chase.
The gelding pulled up at Kempton in late 2013 and was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat after a stunning year that included a hat-trick of festival victories at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown.
Sprinter Sacre finished off the 2015 campaign in style, triumphing over the Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux again with an impressive win in the bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown. He was paraded at Cheltenham this afternoon in order to offer fans the chance to say goodbye.
"He's been a great part of our lives," Henderson said, according to Sky Sports. "What happened last year was something that will never be repeated in my lifetime. In terms of emotion it took us all to the brink. He will be here today and he looks as well as he's ever done. He's in staggeringly good form. The sad thing is that he is doing everything right."
Sprinter Sacre's current jockey, Nico de Boinville, was informed of the decision at Gloucester Royal Hospital where he is awaiting surgery on a broken arm suffered after falling from Le Reve in yesterday's BetVictor Handicap Chase. Barry Geraghty previously rode the legendary two-miler for 17 races.
This week has proved particularly tough for horse racing, with Henderson's British thoroughbred Simonsig tragically suffering a fatal broken leg in Sunday's Shloer Chase.
Three-time Cheltenham Festival winner Vautour died last Sunday after breaking his foreleg in a freak yard accident, while Hennessy Gold Cup contender Avant Tout also had to be put down after sustaining a deep laceration to his off-fore tendon during a race at Naas.
Both horses were trained by Mullins.