Uttoxeter: Himalayan hits the heights as Cup hero comes back to earth

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The Independent Online

For the week's equine heroes, there was a day doing nothing and the plaudits of a victory parade. For the human halves of the partnerships it was business as usual in less glorious surroundings than Cheltenham. And for Sam Thomas, only 24 hours earlier on cloud nineafter his Gold Cup victory on Denman, it was a thoroughly down- to-earth day at Uttoxeter.

Happily not literally, but his five rides, which started with a second-last, carried on with a third, a pulled-up, a fourth and finally a second in the increasingly soggy late-afternoon gloom. "Welcome back to the day job," said the 23-year-old wryly.

In fact, the stars at the Staffordshire track were upstaged by a virtually unknown 22-year-old apprentice rider from Holland, Tjade Collier. Riding 16-1 shot Himalayan Trail, the Dutchman – whose father is Welsh – turned the post-Festival marathon in the mud that is the Midlands Grand National into a procession. He sent the nine-year-old on four fences from home and eventually came in 22 lengths clear of the closest of his toiling rivals, Irish raider Badgerlaw.

Collier, who rides for Sue Smith's Yorkshire stable, kept looking round in astonishment between fences as he drew further and further away. "I couldn't believe how far clear I was," he said, "but he had a low weight, so I thought I'd make use of it in those conditions. He was getting very tired towards the end, but it didn't matter by then."

In Somerset, rain did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of hundreds of fans as Denman led his Paul Nicholls-trained stablemates Kauto Star and Neptune Collonges, second and third in the Gold Cup, plus the yard's Champion Chase victor Master Minded and Triumph Hurdle hero Celestial Halo, through Ditcheat village.

Their trainer confirmed that Denman will not race again this season, adding that Kauto Star might and Neptune Collonges certainly will. "I'm amazed at how well Kauto seems to have come out of the race," he said, "and the Betfair Bowl at Aintree is a possibility, if we're happy with him. Neptune Collonges will go to the Punchestown Festival, where he won a Grade One last year."

If the big two meet again – which Nicholls would like – their fans will have another 12 months to wait. "There are so many good races that they won't meet until the Gold Cup again. It would be nice to have a rematch, and Kauto could turn seven lengths round on different ground on a different occasion."

At Lingfield, the all-weather season's richest prize, the £56,780 Winter Derby, went to the Clive Brittain-trained Hattan, who burst to the front under Seb Sanders to beat the arguably unlucky favourite Silver Pivotal two lengths. "All his family get better as they get older," said Brittain of the six-year-old, "and he's a big strong horse now. He put on 20 kilos in the last year, and he's now a man."

The trainer Michael Wigham has been fined a record £20,000 in the wake of a British Horseracing Authority inquiry into aso-called non-trier from his Newmarket yard. He and the jockey Jamie Mackay were found guilty over the running of Granakey at Wolverhampton in December and Kempton in January.

Wigham, convicted for the same breach of the rules with Silver Hotspur at Newmarket in June last year, is also banned from having runners for 35days, while Mackay has been suspended for 60 days.