Grand National hero Rough Quest — whose 1996 victory was described by his jockey Mick Fitzgerald as ‘better than sex’ — has died at the grand age of 30.

The gelding provided owner Andrew Wates, trainer Terry Casey and Mick with one of their most memorable days in racing and was the longest living Grand National-winning horse.

However, he recently developed an infection, which he was struggling to overcome, and the decision was made to put him to sleep on Wednesday (19 October).

The son of Crash Course was retired from the track aged 12 before enjoying a few years on the hunting field, but was described by his owner as “rather a handful and very strong”.

He returned to Andrew’s home in Dorking, Surrey, three years later where he would remain in happy retirement for the next 15 years.

“He really was part of the family and will be very much missed — I would visit him at least two or three times a week. I had owned him for 26 years and for most of that time he remained in the same yard at Henfold House Stables,” said Andrew.

“He was a very tough individual and was extremely well looked after by David Arbuthnot [who trains from Henfold] in his retirement.”

Andrew found Rough Quest as a ‘keen’ four-year-old in Ireland through trainer Arthur Moore.

“He’s was a fantastic mover and a really lovely horse — a bit backward but a big, strong horse.”

He won over the infamous Aintree fences aged 10, having been second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and won the Racing Post Chase on the lead-up to the big race.

“Mick Fitzgerald gave him a beautiful ride in the National that year. You never wanted to hit the front too soon with Rough Quest because he would idle,” added Andrew.

“Following the race there was an enquiry and I think I was too busy with emotion that it was almost a relief when the winner was announced — it really was the best day.”