Racing: TOP WEIGHT CAN'T STOP TRABOLGAN.
TRABOLGAN put up a tremendous performance under top weight to hold French raider L'Ami in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury.
The seven-year-old, trained by Nicky Henderson, was always travelling well for Mick Fitzgerald and stayed on strongly on the run-in to prevail in the colours of Grand National-winning owner Trevor Hemmings. He became the first horse since Burrough Hill Lad 21 years ago to give weight all round in this prestigious staying handicap chase.
The 13-2 chance was giving Henderson his first Hennessy triumph,and provided Fitzgerald with a fairytale victory as he only returned to race riding earlier in the week following a long spell on the sidelines with a broken neck.
From the third-last fence the race developed into a duel as L'Ami and Trabolgan were going better than the others.
There was nothing to choose between the pair as they jumped the last together but Trabolgan found more to power home by two-and-a-half lengths.
L'Ami (10-1) was a length-and-three-quarters ahead of 11-2 favourite Cornish Rebel, with Comply Or Die (12-1) in fourth.
Henderson said: "It's taken me 25 years to do (win the Hennessy). Mick struggled to get back and to do that is special for everybody, and you couldn't have a nicer guy who owns the horse.
"This is our home track and we've had three seconds in the Hennessy over the years. It's nice to get it.
"It's just great to see Mick back like that at our local track and for Mr Hemmings, so it's a bit special."
When he had gathered his thoughts, Fitzgerald paid tribute to the Henderson team.
"All these people have done all the hard work - Corky Brown our head lad, Johnny Worrall, Sarah who looks after the horse and Nicky as well. I've just steered him," he went on.
"Without Nicky behind me I would never have come back."
Hemmings said: "I thought like most people would that my Grand National winner (Hedgehunter) was the only big one I was going to have"This is fantastic. Mick kept saying he would love to ride him. He damaged his neck but he kept believing in it and kept on saying if he rode him he'd win it (the Hennessy).
"Nicky's always had faith in the horse from the beginning. We bought him as a yearling, we've nursed him all the way through, which is a lovely thing to do, and it's only his fifth run over fences. "It's 20 years since a horse carrying this weight won this race. He really is a lovely animal."
VC Bet and Cashmans slashed Trabolgan to 5-1 from 10-1 for the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Francois Doumen said of the David Casey-ridden L'Ami: "His new rider handled him perfectly well and I want to now go away and think about a plan for him. "I feel that softer ground would have been ahuge benefit to him." Casey added: "He jumped great but I always knew 'Fitzy' was going a bit better than me."
Paul Nicholls was delighted with the effort of Cornish Rebel. "It was a great run," he said
CUP CRACKER: Trabolgan, left, jumps the last ahead of L'Ami