A HORSE which provided its Herefordshire owner with one of the best day in his life is retiring from steeplechasing.

Next Sensation, who is owned by county businessman and racing fan Mark Blandford shot to fame when it won the A.P. McCoy Grand Annual Chase during the Cheltenham festival in 2015.

The 10-year-old bay gelding was trained by Michael Scudamore, at his stables in Bromsash, near Ross-on-Wye, and won five times in his career from 31 races.

"Cheltenham was the pinnacle of his career," said Blandford.

"During the 2013/14 season he was named as the most improving steeplechaser in training that season.

"We brought him at auction as a four-year-old after he had won his first point to point event in Ireland. The auction included promising horses so Michael developed a shortlist for us to choose from and the agent who had ridden him confirmed what we thought about the horse.

"Just after we brought him back to the yard we were so excited to run him that we travelled to Hexham in the North East where he raced in a three runner event, of which two were proper racehorses. We got well beaten by the only other racehorse and it was a long drive home.

"I didn't think then that he would be a Cheltenham winner but that just shows what horse racing is like.

"I have to pay tribute to Michael and his team who worked hard with the horse and the following season got him competing with the very best in the country. He had one or two little niggles which Michael's medical team found and sorted out and following on from that he had fantastic form."

Next Sensation is due to spend his retirement at Scudamore's stable where he will be retrained as an equestrian horse.

"We discussed his retirement as I didn't want to see him racing at lower and lower categories and Michael offered to keep him at the stable free of charge as we owe him a happy retirement," added Blandford.

"Michael's partner is going to retrain him so he can then enter eventing competitions including show jumping and cross country in special classes for retrained racehorses. He enjoys being competitive. He is one of the larger horses that has been in training and is quite a lively character."

Blandford has three other racehorses currently in competition named Corner Creek, Benenden and Monbeg Aquadude, who are all also trained by Scudamore.

Of these Blandford thinks that six-year-old Monbeg Aquadude could be a rising star after taking his first win during his maiden jump season.