THE recent Punchestown Festival proved to be the swansong for two of the best known National Hunt racehorses in training, Sharjah and Corach Rambler. Both horses were officially retired this week by connections.

Sharjah, aged 11, raced 50 times and won 13 races including six Grade 1 hurdle races. He won the Grade 1 Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival four times. He was reinvented as a high class novice chaser last season, winning a Grade 3 at Tipperary and a valuable handicap off top weight at Ayr.

Posting on social media, Willie Mullins said: “He played a big part in securing the British trainers’ championship for us by kickstarting our Ayr raid! A classy two-mile hurdler with a serious turn of foot who showed huge versatility and longevity. He is a firm favourite and we will miss him.”

Corach Rambler is a year younger than Sharjah but he too has been retired, trainer Lucinda Russell has announced. The Irish-bred gelding won the 2023 Grand National to give Russell and jockey Derek Fox their second National after One For Arthur in 2017.

He was fancied to run a big race once more in this year’s renewal after finishing third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but parted company with his rider at the first fence. He went to Punchestown after that, but was pulled up.

He was twice a winner at the Cheltenham Festival, recording back-to-back victories in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

Russell said on her website: “Corach has been a horse of a lifetime for his seven-strong syndicate of owners who won the greatest steeplechase in the world.

“He also has had a special relationship with our jockey Derek Fox and has brought so much joy to all our staff here at Arlary. Corach Rambler will always be a special horse for us, we owe him so much.

“More than anything we want him to go out at the top, in excellent physical condition and able to hopefully enjoy a long and happy retirement.

“Corach has had a massive influence on the fantastic run of success we are enjoying and influx of new horses and owners to our stable. His story has resonated with both racing fans and those people who take a casual interest in the sport.

“The fact he only cost £17,000 and mixed with and beat equine millionaires gave hope to any owner and trainer that they can compete no matter what their budget.”

She added: “The first of his two wins in the Ultima Handicap Chase (in 2022) earned Derek awards for his daring last-to-first ride but even he would admit Corach was the star act.

“He will forever be remembered for his Grand National victory but it should not be forgotten that he had an excellent record at Cheltenham. He raced there four times and his record is three wins, two at the Festival, and a third to Galopin Des Champs in last season’s Gold Cup.

“In all he won seven of his 18 races and over £750,000. He quite literally owes us nothing – we are in his debt.”

Reflecting further, Russell said: “To some our decision will be a surprise. Corach is only 10, he could have raced on. But we feel we have a great responsibility with a horse with his public following to do the best thing for him.

“His run in the Grand National in April did not work out as we all hoped. He unseated Derek at the first fence and then was unfortunately knocked over at the next fence when running loose.

“Maybe that frightened him a bit. We have said all along that he is one of the most intelligent horses we have ever trained and he never looked happy when we ran him at Punchestown last month.”