Racing: Festival conqueror finds brass in Muck

After the Big Show: Walsh wows the crowds but Grand National favourite Nil Desperandum suffers fatal fall
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The Independent Online

In less than 24 hours Ruby Walsh jumped down from the headiness of victory in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham to success in a Class Two handicap hurdle in a rather less vaunted arena. But the ride he gave Michael Muck here yesterday for a prize of £9,507 was no less committed than his tour de force on the ordinary little gelding's brilliant stablemate Kauto Star, with £1,242,335 at stake, the previous afternoon.

"It's my job, isn't it," said the amiable young Irishman, reasonably. "Even after a high like the Gold Cup, there's no problem getting motivated for the day after. Days at the office vary, they can be good or bad. But you don't not go to work because you've had a great day."

Yesterday probably came under the heading run-of-the-mill; four rides, a winner, a third, one unplaced, one pulled up. It was a similar day's work for the other jockey hero of Cheltenham, the meeting's champion Choc Thornton, who notched Grade One wins on the Alan King-trained trio of My Way de Solzen, Voy Por Ustedes and Katchit.

Thornton won on the same yard's Nenuphar Collonges, picked up a second on D'Argent in the day's feature, the Midlands Grand National, partnered a fourth and two also-rans and was equally phlegmatic about the change of setting. "It's not a bad card, this, not bad money on offer," he said. "But Cheltenham is something else. There is absolutely nothing like the thrill of the moment there, but it's more than that. There's what's to come, the expectation of what those young horses might do for you in the future."

Kauto Star emerged from his box yesterday morning in stellar fettle and accepted a rapturous reception from his neighbours in Ditcheat as his due, as he and his three victorious Cheltenham comrades-in-arms, Denman, Taranis and Andreas paraded through the village.

"Everyone turned out to see him," said trainer Paul Nicholls' assistant Dan Skelton. "He can take all of that, loves the attention." Kauto Star bowled them over at Cheltenham; in the Manor pub, a Gold Cup-winner's leap from his stable, a few hours later the celebration of his exploits had much the same effect. "They opened the skittle alley to make room and there were 300 packed in," added Skelton, "but I'm not too sure how many were standing by the end."

The jockey in the spotlight here yesterday was Jason Maguire, victorious on Baron Windrush in the big race and Jungleland in one of the card's lesser contests.

Baron Windrush, an 11-1 shot, led before the turn into the long, four-fence home straight, and kept going powerfully to score by 12 lengths. The novice D'Argent, at 40-1, had been pulled up behind Denman in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday but put the memory of that behind him as he held Irish raider Newbay Prop, the 11-2 joint favourite, by a neck for second. "He's done it beautifully," said Maguire. "He's a great jumper and I just left him to it all the way round. He popped the last like an old hunter."

But the two sides of this uncompromising game were starkly visible here in the same frozen frame. As Baron Windrush passed the post, the dread green screens were up less than 100 yards away, shielding the last moments of one of his rivals, Nil Desperandum, from public gaze. The stricken 10-year-old shattered a pastern on the first circuit and could not be saved.

Nil Desperandum, sixth and fourth in the past two Grand Nationals, had been the favourite for this year's race, three weeks on Saturday. His place at the head of the market has now been taken by Dun Doire, a gritty winner at Down Royal yesterday.

National top weight Exotic Dancer, two and a half lengths behind Kauto Star on Friday, will go to Aintree, but for the Betfair Bowl, not the marathon. "He's fine this morning, not a bother on him," said his trainer Jonjo O'Neill. "It's a shame he's Mill House, not Arkle, but if you'd asked me at the start of the season if I'd take second in the King George and Gold Cup with him I'd have taken your arm off."

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