Cue Card's owner Jean Bishop has paid tribute to the popular chaser after his retirement was announced on Tuesday.
Bishop and trainer Colin Tizzard had planned to give the 12-year-old a final outing in the bet365 Oaksey Chase at Sandown on April 28, but after failing to show his usual exuberance on the gallops, the decision was taken to retire him before then.
Cue Card first hit the headlines when winning the Champion Bumper at the Festival in 2010 and while he counted three Betfair Chases, two Ascot Chases, a Ryanair and a King George on his record, Bishop pinpointed that first Grade One as her happiest memory.
"I think my favourite day was the Cheltenham Bumper because that was so unexpected, he was 40-1 and it was the beginning of everything for him," said Bishop.
"If it wasn't for Sprinter Sacre, he might have had another three or four Grade Ones. We never ran away from anything and he took them all on, he was the only one that did.
"He always tried his best and sometimes he wasn't beaten that far by him."
Cue Card's last win came in the Ascot Chase in February 2017 and he bows out having won 16 of his 41 races, nine at Grade One level, with almost £1.5 million in prize money to his name.
He was arguably at his best in the 2015-16 season, when he won the Charlie Hall at Wetherby and the Betfair Chase before adding the King George at Kempton after a thrilling battle with Vautour.
Heading to the 2016 Gold Cup, he was the 5/2 joint-favourite and on the verge of a £1 million Triple Crown bonus, but he fell three fences from home when still travelling well.
"I think his longevity made it him stand out. He did miss the Gold Cup one year but we've never been hard on him, he was never over-raced, he was healthy all the time," said Bishop.
"There was the one season, which you'd say was his highlight, the year he nearly won the bonus. Even after his fall, he went back to win at Aintree. He always came back.
"For a few seasons he was the highest-rated chaser in Britain. Look how hard it is for Gold Cup winners to come back the following season. He might not have won the Gold Cup, but he kept coming back.
"Even as recently as February, he ran right up to his best at Ascot against a horse everyone is tipping for the top (Waiting Patiently).
"We'd have liked to have run at Sandown, but if he's not right then he can't run. Had it been earlier in the year we could have let him get over this,but you never know what might happen in a race.
"We can go and enjoy Sandown now without any pressure. I feel sad about it and while he can enjoy his retirement, it is always sad when something comes to an end."
The news was broken via Joe Tizzard, who rode Cue Card early in his career and is now assistant to his father.
"We've taken the decision this morning to retire Cue Card. He wasn't working quite as well as he can and we didn't want to take him to Sandown if we weren't 100% happy with him," Tizzard told Coral.
"We will still take him to Sandown to parade him, and to celebrate a great career. He has been an incredible horse for us and now he can look forward to a new chapter in his life."
He added on At The Races: "It takes a lot for a horse to be at the top for as long as he has.
"Early on he was very keen, too keen really. He had a huge engine and pulled for a mile and a half of a two-mile race. It wasn't until he went over fences that he learned to race properly.
"I think his first Betfair win at Haydock stands out. We'd been keen to try him over three miles, but there had been a lot of discussion whether it was the right thing to do.
"He won by 20 lengths and it brought Dad to tears - I don't think I've ever seen that, so that stands out for me."
Cue Card's best bits
- Keith Hamer picks out five magical moments from the hugely popular chaser's amazing career
RYANAIR CHASE (Cheltenham, March 2013)
Surprise 40-1 winner of the Champion Bumper in 2010, Cue Card had been beaten at the next two Festivals but had his day again as he put up a game front-running performance in the hands of the trainer's son, Joe Tizzard, to win the Ryanair in authoritative fashion by nine lengths from First Lieutenant.
BETFAIR CHASE (Haydock, November 2013)
This renewal attracted a field worthy of a Cheltenham Gold Cup, with stars such as Long Run, Dynaste, Silviniaco Conti, Tidal Bay and Bobs Worth among those in attendance. Cue Card had yet to win over three miles but showed he stayed the trip by making most of the running to score in commanding fashion.
KING GEORGE VI CHASE (Kempton, December 2015)
After three failed efforts, Cue Card finally got it right at the fourth attempt in a heart-stopping finish to the Christmas cracker. He looked nailed on for second place as Vautour approached the winning line in front, but Paddy Brennan got a bit extra out of Colin Tizzard's stable star to land the spoils by a head.
BETFAIR CHASE (Haydock, November 2016)
Cue Card returned to his best to claim a third win in this feature on Merseyside after defeats in his two previous races with a dominant performance. It didn't look easy beforehand as he had to contend with Coneygree, but he brushed the 2015 Gold Cup hero aside as he romped home by 15 lengths.
ASCOT CHASE (Ascot, February 2017)
Put in his place by stablemate Thistlecrack in the King George, Cue Card hit back in style as he followed up his win in this race four years earlier. The 11-year-old outclassed the opposition with a fantastic display. He bounded clear in the straight to trounce Shantou Flyer by 15 lengths to register his ninth Grade One triumph.