Until someone contrives to volley past his own keeper in the last minute of an FA Cup Final, preferably from 30 yards, it is difficult to see how Roger Loughran can be supplanted from the sporting infamy he embraced at Leopardstown yesterday. On only his second day since turning professional, the young Irish jockey devised as excruciating an own goal as can be imagined on the Turf.
Loughran was riding Central House, one of the leading steeplechasers in Ireland, in a Grade One race at Leopardstown in which Moscow Flyer, the Champion Two Mile Chaser, was the 8-11 favourite. Roared on by the Dublin crowd, Central House was bravely getting the upper hand in a gripping battle with Tony McCoy on Fota Island and Andrew McNamara on Hi Cloy.
Suddenly, Loughran stood up in his stirrups and raised an arm. For a split-second, it seemed as though he was under attack by a swarm of bees, but as Loughran started punching the air, the explanation for his behaviour became even more surreal. He had plainly managed to get it into his head that they had already passed the winning post. In reality, it was still a hundred yards distant.
Though his blunder was immediately obvious, Loughran remained oblivious. He pulled back a clenched fist in a classic gesture of virile celebration. Only then did his eyes open to the catastrophe, and he slumped into limp misery. By then it was too late and Central House finished third behind Hi Cloy. No formal punishment could exceed that crimson moment of self-loathing. In the event, the stewards gave him a 14-day suspension. But it was touching to see the immediate response of Barry Geraghty, who rode upsides Central House and took Loughran's arm at a time when lesser men would have been consumed with their own dismay. Geraghty had finished only fourth on the odds-on favourite, Moscow Flyer. But Geraghty knew that the champion's apparent decline - he is now out to 7-1 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Totesport - had temporarily been reduced to a footnote. Loughran seemed to be deceived by the end of a running rail dividing the chase and hurdle tracks, but the trainer of Central House was indulgent. "Roger had given the horse a super ride up till then," Dessie Hughes said. "It's human error, and possibly inexperience. The only satisfaction we get is that we possibly have the best horse now. It's up to Roger now to have the strength to keep going the way he was going."
All in all, it was a day of vivid indignity for jockeys. Another young Irishman, Paddy Brennan, had been given his big chance on One Knight, favourite for the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow as Richard Johnson was still sore after a fall. Brennan had no choice but to tell Paul Nicholls, who had booked him for L'Aventure, that he would be required by his boss, Philip Hobbs, for One Knight.
One Knight had seen off all bar one rival at the second last. Unfortunately, the challenger proved to be L'Aventure, now ridden by Leighton Aspell. The mare led at the final fence, but One Knight was mounting a desperate rally when crashing to earth, leaving L'Aventure a distance clear.
Nap: Lorio Du Misselot
NB: Muttley Maguire