MELISSA JONES SAYS: High drama on day two at Cheltenham
6:10am Thursday 15th March 2012 in Melissa Jones
CALL it what you want but yesterday’s stirring finish to the Queen Mother Champion Chase was definitely nothing short of dramatic.
Hot favourite Sizing Europe and the Argus pick Finian’s Rainbow were neck and neck as they eyeballed each other into the straight, only for their jockeys to be forced to take evasive action to avoid a stricken jockey.
Richard Johnson was still on the course after his errant mount Wishful Thinking had earlier crashed through the fence and then the rail, landing on a French photographer who unfortunately had a bigger close-up of the action than he wanted.
The battered and bruised pair were able to walk away relatively unscathed, along with the horse, but while they were treated by medics a second disaster was narrowly averted by duelling jockeys Barry Geraghty and Andrew Lynch.
The latter, Sizing Europe’s faithful partner in battle, only noticed the fence was dolled off at the last minute, meaning he and Geraghty ended up swerving around it like two Guinness laden Festival punters.
William Nunneley, BHA Head of Stewarding said three boards instructing jockeys to steer their mounts around the fence were in place, but they were moved to the inside to protect the casualties on the other side.
Despite one of the ground staff waving a black and white flag, which instructs jockeys not to jump the obstacle, half of it was left uncovered by boards, so it looked like it could theoretically be jumped.
“I’m sure there are lessons to be learned from this if needs be,” Mr Nunneley told TV viewers.
Fortune favours the brave, and on this occasion the Argus horse lived up to expectations, but the second’s trainer said the hasty manoeuvre cost him victory.
“He (Lynch) said ‘the last cost me the race’ and that was more or less it,” trainer Henry de Bromhead said.
Had he won, the bookmakers would have taken an even bigger pasting following the success of another Argus tip Teaforthree, huge gamble Son Of Flicka and a magnificent Henderson four timer, but they finished the day marginally ahead.
Let’s hope they are running for cover in the opener again today as Peddlers Cross scores for the red-hot Donald McCain and Jason Maguire.
As has been the story through the week, the Irish challengers can be chasing a British horse’s tail in vain as the Cheshire trainer’s pride and joy can get off to a winning start.
Welsh racecourse owner Dai Walters swaps roles for the day as his Oscar Whisky takes on the mighty Big Buck’s in the day’s feature at 3.20.
Big Buck’s the phenomenon can take his fourth World Hurdle home.
Somersby is my best bet of the day in the Ryanair Chase at 2.40.