Racing: Our hearts go out to Our Vic

Monkerhostin is presented with victory after dramatic departure of Pipe's champion hope
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The Independent Online

On an afternoon of multiple and contrasting emotions, it was beaten horses who grabbed and tossed the heart here. Step forward Our Vic, whose dramatic last-fence exit gifted the bonusprint.com Gold Cup to Monkerhostin. And Rooster Booster, with an age-defying trailblazing effort against Back In Front in the Bula Hurdle.

On an afternoon of multiple and contrasting emotions, it was beaten horses who grabbed and tossed the heart here. Step forward Our Vic, whose dramatic last-fence exit gifted the bonusprint.com Gold Cup to Monkerhostin. And Rooster Booster, with an age-defying trailblazing effort against Back In Front in the Bula Hurdle.

Yesterday marked the long-awaited, but delayed, seasonal reappearance of Our Vic, by reputation the best of the emerging generation of chasers in Martin Pipe's yard. For 16 of the 17 fences all went entirely to plan: the imposing seven-year-old, jumping impeccably, looked a Rolls among Escorts, gaining ground at his fences and seemingly hard held as he raced close to the pace. Timmy Murphy sent him to the front four out and, given one reminder, he was a length to the good going to the final obstacle.

But his final approach seemed indecisive; he went right, then left, and though he jumped the birch square, his balance was askew and, landing steep, he knuckled nose-down, scrabbled, flipped vertically and finally flopped, hard and unmoving, to the ground. Monkerhostin neatly nipped by the stricken 11-4 favourite, charging up the hill with Thisthatandtother seven lengths in his wake, but all eyes were on the inert bay form. Our Vic lay still for 10 agonising minutes with oxygen-giving vets in attendance, then caught his breath and scrambled upright, to a louder cheer than greeted Monkerhostin.

"Those were the worst moments of my life," said Susie Crockett, who looks after Our Vic at home at Pond House. "Him getting up was better than if he'd won," added the owner, David Johnson. The Pipe yard has lost two high-profile potential champions here, Gloria Victis and Valiramix, but happily Our Vic lives to fight another day - possibly in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, possibly the Pillar Chase back here in January. Sadly, Massac does not. The Alan King-trained five-year-old died of a broken neck at the fourth fence.

Whether Our Vic would have won is now academic, but Murphy's reaction left no doubt that it should have been his name on the roll of honour. As he regained his feet after the fall, the disappointed Irishman showed a solicitous, almost tender care for his stricken partner, as well as an unrestrained grasp of Anglo-Saxon, and his frustration was still expletively evident later. "He fell, just furring leave it at that," he said. "Don't furring keep going on about it."

It was perhaps a giveaway that Richard Johnson, Monkerhostin's rider, was ambivalent about whether he won by default or not. "I'd been lucky not to be brought down when Massac fell," he said, "and maybe Our Vic coming down was another bit of luck, but I wonder if he was getting tired.

"Anyway, it worked out well for me, because I didn't want to be in front too soon. He'd jumped great all the way and deserved to win."

All in all, Monkerhostin's trainer, Philip Hobbs, had a good afternoon, with a treble at Doncaster and a valiant display from grand old Rooster Booster here. If there had been any doubt that the battle-hardened 10-year-old, winner of the Champion Hurdle last year and beaten only by Hardy Eustace this year, still remains a people's favourite, it was erased by the roar that arose as the grey thundered down the hill towards the turn to the last hurdle 15 lengths clear of the pack.

But, despite his gallant effort to run the sting from his opponents, there are now younger legs out there on the park, and up the hill Back In Front, Inglis Drever and Westender all went by.

The four-length success for Eddie O'Grady's charge, the Supreme Novices' winner last year, tightened Ireland's grip on the Champion Hurdle betting: the seven-year-old is now vying with compatriots Harchibald, Hardy Eustace and Accordion Etoile at the top of the lists.

Some more serious Champion Hurdle business takes place in Ireland this afternoon, when Hardy Eustace makes his comeback in a Grade Two contest at Navan against the divisional queen, Solerina, the Irish "iron mare" going for her 17th success.

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