is saddened to report that Monsignor has passed away at the age of 19.

Owned during his racing days by Malcolm Denmark, the big chestnut horse had a short but brilliant racing career in which he beat Best Mate and won at two Cheltenham Festivals.

Monsignor first sprang to prominence when he won the Champion Bumper at the Festival in 1999, at the odds of 50/1, but the Mark Pitman trained horse went on to prove that was anything but a fluke the next season as he won all six of his novice hurdle races, reeling off victories in the Kennel Gate Novices Hurdle, Tolworth Hurdle, Persian War Hurdle, Michael Page Technology Novices’ Trial Hurdle and Royal & Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle. At Sandown he had Best Mate and future Triumph Hurdle winner Snow Drop toiling in his wake, future Grand National winner Bindaree was behind him in the Persian War and he won at Cheltenham by an easy 8 lengths.

The world appeared to be his for the taking, with talk of a possible clash with Istabraq or a novice chase campaign the following season. Sadly injury kept Monsignor off the track and over the next couple of years there were the occasional rumours that he might be back soon but another race never quite happened. His career finished with 8 wins from his 10 starts and the feeling that even then, he might have achieved so much more – as it was, his rival Best Mate went on to underline what a talent Monsignor was with his 3 Cheltenham Gold Cup victories.

In 2006 Denmark generously gifted Monsignor to Homing Ex-Racehorses Organisation Scheme (HEROS) where he became an equine ambassador for the charity – going out to racecourses in “Meet the Racehorse” sessions and parading at Lambourn and Epsom open days.

As the Olympic Torch traveled around the UK in 2012, Monsignor and Frankie Dettori teamed up to carry the Torch around the parade ring at Ascot racecourse.

Earlier this year it was reported that he had injured a tendon in his left fore and very sadly last Friday the decision was taken to put Monsignor down, after a further injury to the same leg was inflicted in his field at home at North Farm Stud in Oxfordshire.

“I have known him for what seems like forever and he will leave a huge gap in our lives,” Grace Muir of HEROS told

“He was a great character, a kind and gentle giant who nevertheless had a great zest for life. A huge thank you to Monsignor for all he has done for HEROS and we will always treasure the times we had with him.”