14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Union caps big day for NichollsHeadlines
Unioniste is clear at the last under Harry Derham

It was to prove yet another glorious Cheltenham Saturday for Paul Nicholls as the champion trainer's four-timer included almost every race of consequence.

A week which started with the acrimonious departure of retired jumping great Kauto Star ended with Nicholls' 18-year-old nephew Harry Derham coming of age aboard the youthful Unioniste in the feature Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup.

Just over half an hour later his stablemate Zarkandar claimed top honours in the International Hurdle, while other successes came via Far West in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial and Shooters Wood in the Jenny Mould Memorial Handicap Chase.

Unioniste was the first four-year-old to land the established Grade Three handicap chase, and had only sneaked into the line-up as a first reserve. As with Al Ferof, winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup at the last meeting, Unioniste (15-2) carried the familiar yellow silks of John Hales.

He forged 11 lengths clear under a patient ride from the conditional while Walkon, the 7-2 favourite, was forced to settle for the runner-up prize once again, having done so in the Paddy Power as well.

Derham said: "You've got Ruby (Walsh), Daryl (Jacob) and Ryan Mahon in the stable, so there's a pecking order and I was absolutely delighted to get the chance in my second year as a conditional. The horse made my life very easy, he's very strong for a four-year-old and I always knew I had a bit left."

Nicholls, who had five winners on the day courtesy of Rocky Creek's strike at Doncaster, said: "I thought he had to run here off a mark of 137 as he wouldn't get another chance, and he's not like a normal four-year-old, he's a real professional and he knows how to jump.

"I'm so pleased for Harry. He has had to be patient, but we've preserved his claim for big races like this."

Nicholls went on: "I can assure you I've never had a more embarrassing or unenjoyable week like that in my life. I apologise for everything that has gone on and I've never been more embarrassed, so to end it with a win like this is great. The horse will have a month off now and he'll have an entry for the RSA."

Unfortunately for Nicholls, his other runner Cristal Bonus suffered a fatal injury in the race.

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