Phil Kirby hailed Lady Buttons as “our horse of a lifetime” after confirming his star mare’s retirement because of injury.
While very much in the twilight of her racing career at the age of 10, the daughter of Beneficial was arguably better than ever last season – winning three of her five starts.
After successfully defending her crown in the Listed mares’ hurdle at Wetherby in early November, Lady Buttons finished a creditable fourth in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle before landing both a Listed mares’ chase and a Grade Two mares’ hurdle at Doncaster.
She could finish only seventh in an especially high-class renewal of the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, but Kirby had been looking forward to her return to action this autumn for one final season.
In an emotional statement posted on Twitter, the trainer said: “It’s been a significant morning here at the yard, and time has been called on a wonderful career. Our horse of a lifetime, and the people’s favourite, Lady Buttons, has been retired.
“Keith, Jayne (Sivills, owners) and all of us here would like to thank you so much for sharing her incredible racing story with us. What a legend she has been, and the decision to retire her this morning was typical of her devoted owners – putting the mare first.
“A small setback meant she would have been on the sidelines until Christmas, and a spring return would not have been in Buttons’ best interests.
“With a few months now to chill, her second career begins in the spring and we’re delighted that she will remain with us to become a broodmare.
“We can’t wait to see her in the fields with a foal by her side – one chapter is over but the next one begins.”
Lady Buttons won 15 of her 33 career starts, earning almost £300,000 in win and place prize-money.