Cheltenham Festival: Paul Nicholls dedicates Salubrious victory to Dominic Baker
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls dedicated his victory with Salubrious in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle to the late son of head groom Clifford Baker.
Ridden by Harry Derham, after being held up Salubrious stayed on well in the closing stages, winning by seven lengths, to give Nicholls his first winner of a difficult week following the death of Baker’s 21-year-old son Dominic in a road accident.
“I would like to dedicate that one to Dominic,” said Nicholls. “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 runs himself into the ground.”
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Derham said Salubrious, winner last time out at Musselburgh, didn’t travel through the race with his usual verve and he didn’t appear to like the ground.
However, he said the six-year-old picked up well when he has asked him for his effort and ran through beaten horses really well.
“The last couple of weeks have been really hard and shows that life is not all about horses,” said Derham. “Our horses have been running really well without winning, but this fellow has finally got us off the mark.”
Trainer Rodger Sweeney admitted he was lucky to win the CGA Foxhunters’ Chase for the second year in a row with Salisfy.
Last year’s winner looked almost certain to finish second under Colman Sweeney this time, only for the leader Oscar Delta to unseat Jane Mangan after hitting the running rails when about three lengths clear on the run-in.
Sweeney said: “We were very lucky and I am gutted for Jane. Her father and mother are good friends of mine and it was just unfortunate that she didn’t see the railing and she got dropped.
“She was in full flight, driving on for the line and she is very polished rider. She rode a beautiful race and I think she had our lad beaten. One person’s misfortune is another person’s gain, though.”
Sweeney, winning the race for the third time, said Salsify wasn’t at his best in the soft ground but he jumped well.
However, he didn’t think he would have caught Oscar Delta but the late drama and he felt sorry for Mangan.
“God was on my side, you would say,” said Sweeney. “One thing this fella does is stay, but I don’t know if he would have got there today.
“I probably gave him a bit too much to do and left it a bit late making ground, in hindsight. He is not as good on soft ground and she got two lengths on us turning for home.
“You must feel for Jane. I know her quite well and I ride against her in point-to-points, but that’s racing. I am delighted to win, though, and I am delighted for the horse because he has been a great servant.”
A nervous wait ended in victory for trainer Thomas Mullins as Alderwood landed the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase to give jockey AP McCoy and owner JP McManus their second success on the final day of the Festival.
Going strongly on the turn, Alderwood and another of McManus’ horses Kid Cassidy had the race between them as they pulled well ahead of the rest of the field.
And it was McCoy’s mount who pulled out most in the closing stages, going clear readily to win by three and a quarter lengths for his second Festival win and end the week on a high for Mullins.
“We were favourite for most of the week so we’ve been waiting for him for a while, but he ran a great race, jumped nicely and AP gave him a great ride,” he said.
“AP said he’s a brave horse. He went on the inside to save ground and he said he was lucky to avoid the fallers.
“The horse wasn’t right in the autumn but he started to come to himself after Christmas.”