Hollow's downfall leaves a void

The cheer which greeted the start of the Festival yesterday was as heartfelt as ever, but so too was the groan which quickly followed. When Finnegan's Hollow hit the turf three out in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, an armoured car's worth of major bets, including two of pounds 10,000 to win pounds 30,000 went with him, and for many the grim process of getting out of trouble had started even before the first winner was past the post.

Not that there was not some cause for celebration, since Shadow Leader, one of the most impressive winners the race has seen, had attracted sufficient support to shrink to 5-1 second favourite. Immediate post-race offers for next year's Champion Hurdle were as short as 20-1, though the medical nature of the comments by Charlie Egerton, his trainer, implied that backers looking that far ahead should take care.

"Shadow Leader has had bad knees and we kept patching them up," Egerton said. "He has been a difficult horse to train, we had problems with recurring lameness and we nearly stopped him at Christmas. Things have been going wrong all year so now I think I will celebrate."

The weather-beaten faces in the ring cracked into even broader smiles half an hour later, when Mulligan became the second hot favourite to make an early exit in the Arkle Trophy (Large Action completed an unfortunate treble in the Champion when he too failed to complete). Or Royal, Martin Pipe's 15th Festival winner, was the one to benefit in the Arkle, after a thrilling head-to-head battle with Squire Silk from the last fence which probably made the victory appear more difficult than it was. He may even attempt to follow up in the Cathcart Chase tomorrow.

Flyers Nap, winner of the 1995 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase, completed his own Festival double in the Astec Buzz Shops Chase, but many backers thoughts were with Maamur, pulled up early in the race with a fractured right leg. The popular grey could not be saved.

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