Triolo D'Alene repays faith as Geraghty proves spot on
Barry Geraghty's instinct proved razor-sharp as his choice Triolo D'Alene gave himself and trainer Nicky Henderson their second consecutive Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
Following on from subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth a year ago, the 20/1 chance is viewed as more of a Crabbie's Grand National type but Geraghty still preferred him over stablemate Hadrian's Approach, an early faller.
Ironically, the last jockey to ride two in a row was Paul Nicholls in the mid 1980s, and he saddled the horse which got closest to Triolo D'Alene in Rocky Creek, which was beaten two-and-three-quarters of a length.
Imperial Commander, which was eventually pulled up and now heads for an honourable retirement, looked younger than his 12 years as he set the pace with Highland Lodge for more than a circuit of the major winter handicap.
Champion trainer Henderson, who also landed the 2005 running with Trabolgan, had been worried about a few of his string after a heap of seconds and a notable defeat for the hotly-tipped West Wizard, but had been reassured by the victory of his Champion Hurdle hope My Tent Or Yours at Newcastle an hour earlier.
"Four or five days ago I was in despair, but a couple of things go right and the world seems a brighter place," he said. "After he won the Topham at Aintree last season we started to think about the National, and we will think about it.
"Barry has been begging me all year to save him for the National and we were looking at Aintree next weekend. I didn't do what I was told, but the Hennessy is very special."
Geraghty admitted it had been a hard call between the pair but he would have been picking himself up off the floor had he swerved the other way.
"It was the toss of a coin – I really fancied both of them," he said. "Sadly Nico (de Boinville) was given no chance on (Hadrian's Approach). On that ground and on a stiff track, the horse finds it so easy."
Celestial Halo deputised for the sidelined Big Buck's in the Long Distance Hurdle. Big Buck's, which is set to return from injury in January, had been unbeatable in the previous four renewals, and front-running Celestial Halo was left all on his own in the Grade Two when odds-on favourite At Fishers Cross was stopped in his tracks by an appalling mistake at the second-last.