Neptune Collonges Grand National Wins
- 2012 - ridden by Daryl Jacob trained by Paul Nicholls
Many Grand National winners have a great story behind them and Neptune Collonges is no exception. Off the track for over 600 days due to an injury at the peak of his career, a grey horse, always popular in this race, and the closest winning distance of the race ever, all of those build up into something very special indeed.
Foaled on April 25th, 2001, this French-bred runner had an exceptional career. Not only did he win the 2012 Grand National, but he won three Grade One races over fences, all of which came in Ireland.
Aged 11, the Grand National was his final appearance on a racecourse. Immediately after winning the race, owner John Hales announced his retirement in the Aintree winner’s enclosure, adding even more to this fantastic story, simply saying “He’ll never race again, that’s it.”.
Winner Of The 2012 Grand National
A dramatic day at Aintree was the backdrop to Neptune Collonges’ victory in the Grand National. He was brilliant throughout, jumping well and oozing the class we all knew he had in his locker. However, his age and the fact he had a lot of weight to carry around the course, led people to move away from him. How wrong they were.
This dashing grey certainly had supporters though. Of course, many will remember his previous big race wins, and the fact he was a grey in the race certainly gave people a reason to back him. Despite this, he was sent off at 33/1 by the bookmakers.
Seeing a grey win always brings joy to National lovers, and this was the first time a grey horse had won the race since Nicolaus Silver won the race in 1961. He broke another record too, his winning margin, which was officially described as a nose, was the closest ever finish in the race. He became the highest-rated modern-day Grand National winner, given a rating that would be good enough to go close in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
A truly remarkable story, one that those involved will never forget, and a fitting end for this grand servant when he was retired immediately after the race in the winner’s enclosure.
Did He Get The Credit He Deserved?
Perhaps one of the most interesting angles around the success that Neptune Collonges had, was did he get the respect he deserved? The reason for this is simply because of the time and place where he did his reason. He was trained by Paul Nicholls at a time when the Ditcheat trainer was flying, with stars such as Kauto Star, Denman, Master Minded and Big Bucks all in his stable.
Did they overshadow Neptune Collonges? There is certainly a case to be made that he would have received even more praise and attention had he been with a different trainer, and away from the shadows of those horses. At one point in his career, this superstar horse was the fifth-best horse in the stable, which seems incredible to say about a horse that won three Grade One races and the Grand National.
Did that hamper his ability to attract fans, and stand out from the crowd? His Grand National win came and helped at the end, but before that certainly, he was perhaps a little underestimated and underappreciated by the racing world.
Neptune Collonges’ Early Years
Being a French-bred horse, Neptune Collonges began life running in four-year-old chase races in France, winning five of his six outings, unseating his rider during his only defeat. That caught the eye of Paul Nicholls, who was having great success sourcing horses in France and bringing them over to the UK.
This was another on the Nicholls conveyor belt and was purchased by John Hales, who already had horses at the yard. When coming over to the UK, he dropped back to hurdles, winning three Grade Two races and placing in two Grade One events.
After that, it was all about going chasing. A natural over fences, he quickly found himself mixing it up with the very best that UK horse racing had to offer at the time. Although not a hugely prolific winner, he certainly had some huge moments over fences.
Neptune Collonges’ Big Race Wins
Alongside winning the Grand National in 2012, Neptune Collonges won a total of three Grade One races, all of which were over fences, which was his natural game, and off of them came from trips across to Ireland.
His first came in the Punchestown Gold Cup in April 2007. He had finished down the field in the Cheltenham Gold Cup before this but bounced back with a bang under Ruby Walsh to take the big end of season prize in Ireland.
A year later he was back for more. This time, on the back of an impressive third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and he won the Punchestown Gold Cup again in great style. This time the victory margin was eight lengths, with the best of Irish racing unable to live with the Nicholls trained grey runner.
Rounding off his Grade One wins, he went back to Ireland in February 2009, this time as preparation for the Gold Cup, and he ran in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown, where he won by five lengths to set himself up perfectly for the big race at Cheltenham.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to go better at the festival, finishing fourth and this was the start of over 600 days off the track, but of course, thanks to his Grand National win, we got to see the very best of Neptune Collonges after this.