Demons were exorcised at Exeter yesterday with the unasked-for help of a Demon. Impek, owned by Jim Lewis and trained by Henrietta Knight, won the Grade Two contest in which their Best Mate suffered his fatal heart attack 12 months previously.
But the 10-year-old, who blazed a thrilling trail under Tony McCoy, perhaps owed his victory in part to his stablemate Racing Demon who, running riderless just behind him into the home straight, jumped violently right at the fourth-last fence and took out the one threat, Chilling Place.
The removal of well-backed Chilling Place, who had been only three lengths adrift and was staying on, left 9-1 shot Impek, the top-weight, to come home 19 lengths clear of Ground Ball.
"That was such a thrill," said McCoy. "He was making lengths at every fence. I had no idea what was happening behind me; it was not my problem." Racing Demon, the 3-1 favourite, unseated Graham Lee at the fourth, after standing off and catching the top of the obstacle with paddling forelegs. But Richard Johnson was the unluckiest jockey of the day. An hour after being buffeted from Chilling Place's saddle, he was shot from Out The Black's in equally bizarre circumstances. A stride away from victory, the gelding tried to stop on the run-in and ducked into the paddock exit, right by the winning post. But his gallop momentum as he braked caused him to sprawl and fall, Devon Loch-style. He and his rider passed the post skidding along the ground, but separately.
A treble for Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh included Denman's satisfactory chasing debut and a most impressive performance by the four-year-old staying novice hurdler, Ornais.