Punters were left reeling after day one with so many fallers and hampered horses on Tuesday, the below list highlighted by Willie Mullins’ Benie Des Dieux, a 10/11 favourite who fell at the last flight when in control of the Mares’ Hurdle
She, along with Ornua, Give Me A Copper, Sharjah and Riders Onthe Storm all tumbled and all had chances of varying degrees in their respective races while we also saw a much depleted finishing field in the closing National Hunt chase but if the weather holds then hopefully things will turn around for backers on day two.
Here are the highlights and lowlights of day one:
Most Impressive Performance
Klassical Dream, on the basis that the other strong fancies in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle finished the race and he so he beat them fair and square and in very good style indeed.
A Plus Tard romped away with the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase but often it can turn out that horses are very well treated in such races whereas Klassical Dream was running in a Grade 1 off level weights and has now officially joined the top rank with this showing.
The Champion Hurdle. This is for the fact that, unlike Kalashnikov for example (see below), Buveur D’Air’s fall was one of his own making which we couldn’t have foreseen from such a classy horse but then even allowing for that and the poor runs of both Apple’s Jade and Laurina, not many people guessed it would be Gavin Cromwell’s Espoir D’Allen who would race away and take the title in great fashion.
Kalashnikov. Given the way he started his chasing career and allowing for natural improvement following his fine second in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Amy Murphy would have had every reason to think she had the best horse in the Arkle field and stood an outstanding chance of winning the £182,000 Grade 1 contest.
To see favourite Glen Forsa fall and fellow main rivals Lalor and Hardline struggle badly in the conditions it seemed his day in the spotlight had arrived, so to be brought down by another runner when going well was particularly galling and we can only hope he comes back next year all the better for the experience.
Willie Mullins. The pressure is immediately off the masterful Irish trainer after he was responsible for the first two winners of the festival; Klassical Dream and Duc Des Genievres.
The latter benefitted from so many causalities in the Arkle as well as perhaps his French breeding given how soft underfoot conditions were, but all the same he came home in great style under Paul Townend.
Most Controversial Moment
This would undoubtedly be Benie Des Dieux’s fall, with the social media commentators fully out in force on Tuesday night to vent their fury as it wasn’t the first time this has happened to these connections – we all remember Annie Power don’t we?
For what it’s worth, there’s very little chance that a jockey, any jockey, could engineer a fall and be willing to do so at 30mph especially at the last hurdle rather than early in the race so we would never endorse any thoughts of deliberate wrongdoing.
But when we allow a top jockey, in this case Ruby Walsh, to be heavily sponsored by a bookmaker and with the owner (Rich Ricci) owning more than one betting firm himself, questions are always going to be asked when the odds-on favourite is cruising to victory then comes a cropper near the end saving the layers around £50million in the process – especially when it’s all happened before.