Missing tape causes chaos at Cheltenham

Cheltenham's new clerk of the course, Simon Claisse, endured a baptism of fire yesterday when a tape which ensures a continuous running rail from the final fence to the winning line was omitted. The result was that the Carl Llewellyn-ridden Rufius ran out when neck and neck with the eventual winner, Montpelier, in the novices' handicap chase.

Cheltenham's new clerk of the course, Simon Claisse, endured a baptism of fire yesterday when a tape which ensures a continuous running rail from the final fence to the winning line was omitted. The result was that the Carl Llewellyn-ridden Rufius ran out when neck and neck with the eventual winner, Montpelier, in the novices' handicap chase.

The stewards cautioned Montpelier's rider, Mick Fitzgerald, for careless riding after deciding that his mount had drifted across Rufius just before the gap in the rail. They interviewed Claisse and the Jockey Club's inspector of courses, Richard Linley, before ruling that a report of the incident should be forwarded to the Stewards of the Jockey Club.

Claisse, on his first day in the job following the retirement of Philip Arkwright, said: "It's the sort of thing you have bad dreams about but hope it never happens. I have to accept responsibility and it's better that it happened on day one rather than some time later. There has been a misunderstanding between me and the ground staff."

Llewellyn said: "Mick did come across me a little bit. There was a great big gap, normally they put a tape up and the horse just thought he had to go round again. Someone has a lot to answer for."

Fitzgerald echoed those sentiments, saying: "The other horse ducked out at that point and it's the course's fault as they always have a tape across the gap, but it was missing."

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