Harry Derham rides Salubrious to Cheltenham win for Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls
OLVESTON-born Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls saved the best till last at Cheltenham Festival last week, as he gained his first win of the Festival in the penultimate race of the meeting.Salubrious, ridden by Nicholls’ nephew and former Castle School pupil Harry Derham, came home seven lengths clear of second place Nagpur in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle on Friday to secure the young jockey’s first Festival win at 16/1. The win came close to the end of an exciting day’s racing which included the famous Gold Cup where Nicholls was optimistic for a win from the 4/1 Silviniaco Conti, ridden by Ruby Walsh. However these hopes were dashed when they suffered a nasty fall just three from home. The race was ultimately won by the favourite Bobs Worth, who was trained by Nicky Henderson and who notched up his 50th winner at the Festival in a field which could be considered one of the most open for years.“It’s tougher now than it ever was, but the fun has never gone out of it and that’s where we’re lucky,” said Henderson after the race, whose 11/4 victory cost sponsors Betfred an estimated £2.5million, according to the bookmakers’ boss Fred Done.There was also a more subdued mood to the proceedings this year, as many of the winning jockeys paid tribute to leading amateur rider JT McNamara, who remains in an induced coma at Frenchay hospital, where he was taken by helicopter after a heavy fall on Thursday. McNamara was riding Galaxy Rock in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase. He is currently reported to be in a stable condition following surgery on Friday.This was not the only sadness to cast a shadow over the Festival, as Paul Nicholls dedicated his victory with Salubrious in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle to the late son of head groom Clifford Baker, 21-year-old Dominic who died in a road accident.“I would like to dedicate that one to Dominic,” said Nicholls, speaking after the race.“It has been incredibly tough at home with Dominic dying and to get one for the team is brilliant. It means an awful lot for Harry to ride it as well.“I knew Salubrious’ form with At Fishers Cross was good but I wanted him to save as much as he could because if you ride him handy he will run himself into the ground.”“It’s been a mixed week but Harry’s given him a peach of a ride.”Derham said Salubrious, winner last time out at Musselburgh, didn’t travel well throughout the race and he didn’t seem to like the ground.“He made life easy in the end though as he picked up later on and has run through and beaten horses really well.”Derham also dedicated his winning ride to Clifford Baker and family, saying: “The last couple of weeks have been really hard and it shows that life is not all about horses.”Record attendances over the first three days of the Festival have secured the popular meeting’s place as one of the region’s top sporting fixtures, with more than 235,000 visitors passing through the turnstiles over the course of the event, despite reduced capacity on Gold Cup Friday.“I think the reduction in numbers today (Friday), given the weather we have had, will have made the experience better for race goers,” said Ian Renton, who was overseeing his first Festival at Cheltenham.“Putting frost covers down and taking them up, plus moving lots of rail, has been a huge tribute to ground staff team. We would probably have lost two or three days if there had been no covers.”Dursley owner Terry Warner also had two horses running at the Festival: The Colin Tizzard-trained Oiseau De Nuit, who came in a very respectable third place, and Big Easy, who came in sixth on Tuesday.