The first horse to defeat Best Mate over fences, Wahiba Sands, has died aged 27.

An inspired ride by Tony McCoy gave him victory over the legendary chaser in the 2001 First National Gold Cup at Ascot.

The success for trainer Martin Pipe came in the same season Best Mate won his first Cheltenham Gold Cup – and he made it a hat-trick in consecutive years.

Unlike the steeplechasing superstar, Wahiba Sands began his career on the Flat with John Dunlop.

He switched to the National Hunt sphere as a five-year-old after topping the Doncaster August sale for 105,000 guineas.

In 62 races, he won 11 times under all codes, collecting £270,593 in win and place prize money.

Pipe's son David, who sometimes rode him at Pond House, paid tribute to the stable favourite: "He was a very good horse and put up some great performances over the years for us and the late David Johnson," he said.

Tony McCoy and Wahiba Sands (right) take a fence alongside Best Mate (centre) and Logician in the 2001 First National Gold Cup

"Only a few horses defeated Best Mate over fences and he was one of them.

"He loved his work and always looked very good – he was a fine, big horse.

"After racing he enjoyed a great retirement with Vicky Selway and she adored him."

Selway looked after many of the yard's good horses, including Far Cry who took her to the Melbourne Cup, plus the winners of what is now the BetVictor Gold Cup, Challenger Du Luc and Cyfor Malta.

Wahiba Sands spent his retirement with Vicky Selway

At the age of 12, Wahiba Sands arrived at his new home near Taunton Racecourse.

He was retrained by his devoted groom and was as versatile as in his racing career, doing dressage, showjumping, team chasing and fun rides.

"Wahiba Sands was an awesome horse," she said.

"I lead him up the day he beat Best Mate. I thought he had a good chance that day, as when he was in good form he would tow you around the parade ring.

Wahiba Sands won 11 races under all codes

"Everyone was ecstatic with the performance."

Over the years, Wahiba Sands faced several injury battles – and on one occasion he broke his leg in three places while out in the field.

He was nursed back to health and was doted on by his owner's nine-year-old son William.

"He was amazing with him," he said.

"If he knew he wasn't going out, he would kick the stable door until he was allowed.

"He was a lovely character and do anything for a ginger nut biscuit or a pear.

"We were together for about 20 years. He was a horse of a lifetime."