The owner of popular chaser Monet’s Garden, David Wesley Yates, told H&H he was hoping for “a miracle” as the horse remains critically ill with a foot infection.

The 13-year-old grey was forced into retirement last week after developing a life-threatening infection in his navicular bone and flexor tendon.

He developed an abscess in his off fore after winning a third Old Roan Chase at Aintree last October. But the infection hasn’t cleared up as hoped, and after four operations, connections are preparing for the worst.

Vets have now reduced the amount of painkillers the horse is on as they were worried about the effect on his internal organs. And he’s wearing a special shoe to support his foot and make him comfortable.

He’s had a decent weekend but we’re frightened to say he’s improved — it’s a case of two steps forward, three steps back,” said Cumbria-based trainer Nicky Richards. “He’s in the best possible hands and being given every chance.

“It’s incredibly upsetting for everyone. But he’s comfortable and happy within himself — we’re holding our breath.”

David added: “He’s in good spirits, but the prognosis isn’t good. It’s very serious and he’s not responding to treatment. If he starts to go downhill, we can’t have him suffering.”

Monet’s Garden has won 17 races from 32 starts, including the Old Roan Chase three times.

David described Monet’s Garden as “a horse of a lifetime” when speaking to H&H today (Monday 10 January), while Nicky said he was “an absolute dream” and “a gentleman”.

“He’s never had any problems so it’s a real shame for this to happen so late in his career — we were hoping he’d have at least a few years of happy retirement,” said David.

“He’s a straightforward, genuine horse. His only quirk was he doesn’t like staying away from home — he likes sleeping in his own bed. We only realised this quite late on, after he disappointed in the King George. When we took him to Ascot (where he won the Ascot Chase last February) he got up at 5am, had breakfast and travelled down and loved it.”

The plan was for Monet’s Garden to retire this year and remain with his groom Joey, Nicky’s daughter.

“She’d been quietly making plans — we wouldn’t want him just turned out in the field — so we’re hoping desperately that some of those might be fulfilled. It’s very tough for her,” added Nicky.

Nicky and David have received hundreds of emails and letters from well-wishers from all over the world since the news broke of Monet’s Garden’s illness.

“It just shows how popular he is. We really appreciate everyone’s kind words and well wishes,” said the trainer.