Norfolk farmer enjoys shock Highland National success
16:36 03 May 2012
A south Norfolk farmer had one of the biggest thrills of his life when his horse won the Highland National in dramatic fashion against the odds.
Robert Bothway, from Fundenhall near Wymondham, was given an emotional roller-coaster ride as his 33-1 outsider Cerium won the feature race of the Perth Festival on Friday – with young jockey Trevor Whelan needing all his skill to stay in the saddle after a last-fence blunder.
But happily the horse and jockey, who took advantage of falls by two of the leading fancies three fences out, remained intact to win the three-mile seven furlong Handicap Chase by 22 lengths. In testing heavy conditions only two of the 11 horses finished.
The horse’s success, which earned £13,000, was the best yet for owner Mr Bothway, and the biggest of the 20 wins in the jumps season which has just ended for Newmarket-based trainer Neil King. It was also the biggest of 13 wins for conditional jockey Whelan, 23.
“Mr Bothway is a very loyal and enthusiastic supporter of my yard and he thoroughly deserves a big win,” said Neil, who is one of a handful of jumps trainers at Flat racing’s HQ, and has 35 horses at his St Gatien Yard.
Mr Bothway and Mr King were unable to attend the race in Scotland but celebrated their success at the Larling Angel on Friday evening, before the horse arrived back at the stables after an epic near 900-mile round trip.
Mr Bothway, an arable farmer at the Grange, was unable to go to the race because his 98-year-old mother Barbara was critically ill. But he was pleased that he told her about the horse’s win before she died at her Wymondham home on Sunday.
“Mother took it on board before she went into a deep sleep. ‘How wonderful, how wonderful’, was the last thing she said’.
Mr Bothway, 75, a former point-to point rider and trainer, who also used to train greyhounds, admitted: “I nearly had a heart attack at the last fence.”
He added: “We knew the horse wanted it hock deep, the softer the better.”
The victory fully vindicated Neil’s decision to send the 11-year-old bay gelding all the way to central Scotland, despite his lack of a race win for over five years. Friday’s win was Cerium’s eighth in a 31-race career stretching back to 2004.
“He’s a lovely horse. He was fifth in the Grand National at Aintree in 2009,” said Neil of the former Paul Nicholls and Paul Murphy inmate.
“He wants four miles and he loves the soft ground. Although he had not won for five years he was only beaten a neck in a staying chase at Warwick.”
Another long trip could be in the pipeline for Cerium’s next test as he is being primed for a three-mile six furlongs veterans chase at Cartmel, Cumbria, on June 6.
“That will be his next race – but only if the ground is right. If not he’ll be going on his summer holidays,” said Neil.