Martin Pipe claimed his 15th trainers' championship as the Irish hijacked St George's Day celebrations at Sandown Park, thanks to Jack High's success in the £150,000 Betfred Gold Cup.

Paul Nicholls' dying hopes of wresting the title from the grip of his West Country neighbour were dealt a severe blow when Grand National second Royal Auclair fell at the first fence.

With the Ditcheat, Somerset handler seeing his other runners, Whitenzo and Inca Trail, failing to quite see out the trip, the champion, based at Nicholashayne in Devon, won by over £72,000.

He had earlier tightened his grip on the crown when Well Chief had defeated Nicholls' Azertyuiop in the Betfred Celebration Chase.

Pipe said: "It means so much to everybody, to all the stable staff, and they need the credit as they do all the hard work. It really was a tough contest, very exciting. Good for racing and good for the public too, but a bit tense for us. I was resigned to finishing second this year but we've done it and I'm absolutely delighted.

"We'll have a celebration at the local pub and I'm just worried about the ceiling there, because last year they kept giving me the bumps!"

In a race of changing fortunes - as is so often the case with the Betfred Gold Cup - Jack High flew late under Garrett Cotter to become only the third Irish winner of the race since the great Arkle.

Last seen finishing runnerup in the Irish Grand National, the 16-1 winner put his stamina to good use when running on strongly past Juveigneur on the run-in to score by a length-and-a-quarter.

Kelami, the favourite, stayed on at one pace to take third having held every chance between the final two fences, while Whitenzo faded late into fourth having held a narrow advantage over the last.

Jack High's success saved the race's sponsor, bookmaker Fred Done, from having to pay £250,000 to the connections of the second and third horses, having offered a bonus of that amount to any horse who won at the Cheltenham Festival and went on to victory here.

Never short of a word or two, winnng trainer Ted Walsh quipped: "I think that nice Mr Done ought to give me at least ten per cent for saving him all that money!"

Although Nicholls still had a mathematical chance of becoming champion trainer for the first time before the big race, his chances had effectively been blown away when Well Chief overturned Azertyuiop in the Betfred Celebration Chase.

The 9-4 chance crept into the race under Timmy Murphy and took the lead from his great rival at the final fence before running on for a fourlength win. Azertyuiop, the 11-10 favourite, had to settle for second, with Pipe's Contraband third in a race where the last three winners of the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham took gold, silver and bronze.

Hurricane Alan will go in search of an elusive Group One success in Newbury's Juddmonte Lockinge Stakes on May 14 after taking the Mile for the second year running.

Sent off a 5-1 shot, the fiveyearold was settled behind the pacesetting Brunel by Pat Dobbs and wore down his rival inside the final furlong to record a gritty half-length success.

Babodana stuck on well to finish a similar distance away in third in the Group Two contest.

Winning trainer Richard Hannon paid tribute to both his jockey and the farrier after the colt recorded his seventh career success.

"The blacksmith did a hell of a job to get him right," said Hannon. "After his last race at Newmarket (ten days previously), he developed a quarter-crack in his inside off-foreleg and it looked very nasty. We were worried for quite a long time but he has had three runs this season and was pretty fit, so we took our chance.

"I couldn't be more delighted with Dobbsy. He's a first-class jockey and a big part of the team. He should be riding more winners.

"We will probably go for the Lockinge now. A Group One win would make Hurricane Alan a stallion, though he's probably a stallion now anyway. He's not bad for a 14,000-guinea yearling, is he?"

Weightless and Johnny Murtagh caused a 14-1 shock in the Group Three Betfred Gordon Richards Stakes as Quiff, the odds-on favourite and last year's Yorkshire Oaks winner, could only finish fourth in the ten-furlong event.