Racing: Fitzgerald's perfect pain relief

Hennessy Gold Cup: Trabolgan gives Henderson his first victory in Newbury showpiece

"Home town, home team, home track," trainer Nicky Henderson enthused. What he scarcely needed to add as the crowd acclaimed his charge, Trabolgan, was that it was a famous home victory for the man who trains only 15 miles away at Lambourn. Whatever the effect a top weight of 11st 12lb had on the winner, it was negated by the lift provided by the local support. After 26 years, the man who has secured just about every major trophy there is to be hunted in an impenetrable and frequently cruel National Hunt jungle, finally had his hands on the one that had eluded him, the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup.

Fittingly, it was achieved with the assistance of his stable jockey, Mick Fitzgerald, who back in the summer when a horse he was riding fell at Market Rasen, subsequently discovered that he had broken two bones in his neck and that he could have been paralysed had he taken a false step.

The Irishman, whom many suspected would retire to a media or a training career, but returned to competitive action this week, had partnered just one winner before yesterday. This was some consolation for the pain he had endured, both from the injury and that of having to watch horses he would have ridden being partnered by other jockeys.

An emotional Fitzgerald was initially too choked to speak, but when he had composed himself, he reflected: "Horses like this made the decision to come back easy. If you've got shit to ride there's no point. I've gone past that."

He added: "All these people have done all the hard work: Corky Brown, our head lad, Johnny Worrall, Sarah who looks after the horse and Nicky [Henderson]. I've just steered him. Without Nicky behind me I would never have come back. I have always respected what people say. The boss or head lad could have said 'Listen here, you old fart, you're past it; forget it'. But I haven't had any of that."

The boss now has his eyes on the King George VI Chase (normally at Kempton, but this year at Sandown), followed by the Cheltenham Gold Cup, for which Ladbrokes have cut him to 11-4 co favourite with Kicking King and Kingscliff, having been 10-1 at the start of the day.

"We've had a few close shaves in this race. Three seconds, I think," said Henderson of the gelding who was the first horse since Burrough Hill Lad (who had previously won the Gold Cup and subsequently landed the King George) 21 years ago to give weight all-round in this prestigious staying handicap chase. "But this is Newbury's showpiece race and after all these years, it's good to finally get that home win.

"He's such a beautiful horse. It doesn't necessarily mean because they're good-looking that they'll run fast, but it's the general idea. He's just got class."

He added: "You'd like to think that the King George is obviously the natural step from here. But that was a very big one he's taken today."

Trabolgan, the seven-year-old who captured last season's Royal and SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, was nursed along impeccably by Fitzgerald, just off the pace to conserve his energy, before asserting in the straight. He repelled François Doumen's French raider L'Ami on the run-in by two and a half lengths to claim the £54,475 first prize in the colours of the Grand National-winning owner Trevor Hemmings, at odds of 13-2.

Cornish Rebel, the Paul Nicholls-trained 11-2 favourite, finished third, a further length and three-quarters behind L'Ami (10-1) with Martin Pipe's Comply Or Die (12-1) in fourth.

Hemmings added: "I thought like most people would that my Grand National winner, Hedgehunter, was the only big one I was going to have. But Nicky's always had faith in the horse from the beginning. We bought him as a yearling, we've nurtured him all the way through, which is a lovely thing to do, and it's only his fifth run over fences."

Earlier, the Howard Johnson-trained six-year-old Inglis Drever confirmed his stature as champion staying hurdler by defeating Doumen's Baracouda again, this time in the Ballymore Properties Long Distance Hurdle, having beaten him at Cheltenham in March en route to taking the British Horseracing Board's new Order of Merit title.

Nicholls had enjoyed a treble on the first day of the meeting, and won the first two events here. Natal was particularly impressive in the opening novices' hurdle and Paddy Power and Coral make the four-year-old 20-1 for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

But this was Henderson's day, and Fitzgerald's. "Mick struggled to get back and to do that is special for everybody. He never doubted that he would be back, and neither did any of us, really," said the trainer.

BETS OF THE DAY

Serious bet
The stable is spot on, and Albuhera (Newbury 2.05) can improve on his recent third at Cheltenham.

Fun bet
Make the most of the icy weather with Glacial Delight (Newbury 1.00), a nice little winter warmer.

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
musicKate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
News
i100
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Life and Style
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing & Commnunications Executive, London

£30000 - £34000 per annum: Charter Selection: This highly successful organisat...

Residential Property

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Residential Conveyancer - Wiltshire We have a...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Defendant Personal Injury 2+PQE

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - NICHE DEFENDANT FIRM - Defendant Pe...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment