Groom Clare Smith talks to H&H about the sweet-tempered Grand National-winning hero.

Fact file

Age: 11

Name: Neptune Collonges

Stable name: Nipper

Height: 16.1hh

Breed: AQPS

Sire: Dom Alco

Owner: John Hales

Trainer: Paul Nicholls

Discipline: NH racing

Groom: Clare Smith

Best result: dual Grade One Guinness Gold Cup winner (2007-2008), Grand National (2012)

Six things you didn’t know…

1 When Nipper first arrived at Ditcheat as a four-year-old from France, he was “narrow and only about 15.2hh,” says Nicholls. “I said I couldn’t let Mr Hales see him for a while and fed the horse up!”

2 Don’t be surprised to see him pop up in hunt reports in the future. “He can turn his hoof to anything,” says Nicholls’ wife Georgie. “I’ve been inundated with requests to take him hunting.”

3 He’s only the third grey to win the Grand National after Nicolaus Silver (1961) and The Lamb (1868 and 1871).

4 He was out of action for more than a year after sustaining an injury in the 2009 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

5 “Always the bridesmaid”. Trainer Paul Nicholls says he would have won a Cheltenham Gold Cup if it hadn’t been for stable-mates Denman and Kauto Star. Nipper came third behind the pair in 2008.

6 He won the Grand National by a nose – the shortest margin in the race’s 165 runnings.

To read the full interview with Clare Smith about Neptune Collonges see the 3 May issue of H&H

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