reports from Cheltenham
The competition on the first day of the Festival was as fierce as ever, but the downside of the desperation to win was also much in evidence. Four horses -Draborgie, Mack The Knife, Kilfinny Cross and No When To Run -were killed during yesterday's six races, while two jockeys were injured by falls in the opening event.
Jamie Evans, the champion jump jockey in Australia who was riding Robert's Toy, suffered a broken femur when his mount fell three out in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, while Simon McNeill dislocated his shoulder when parting company with Porphyrios at the same obstacle.
The equine casualty list started 35 minutes later, when Draborgie, favourite for the Arkle Trophy, broke a hind leg after jumping the second fence, while Mack The Knife shattered a pastern in the Champion Hurdle. Kilfinny Cross fell at the ditch on the hill in the Ritz Club Chase, while No When To Run broke down with a shoulder injury in the concluding handicap hurdle. "This is the saddest afternoon of my training career," Martin Pipe, trainer of both Draborgie and Mack The Knife, said. "This must be the hardest game in the world, it is absolutely shattering to lose two grand horses in the same day."
Misfortune was the unpleasant thread which ran through the afternoon, but in the winners' enclosure, delight was typically unbridled. Indefence was first into the Festival's top enclosure, an upset for the punters at 25-1, and surprising too since he led all the way and was giving Jenny Pitman her first Festival winner over timber. "This horse had some problems and he was a bit like a greenhouse with no glass in it," Mrs Pitman said. "I was feeling a bit cold and miserable this morning but I will drive home a lot happier."
An incident-filled Arkle Trophy opened with the departure of Francis Woods from Manhattan Castle's saddle as the tapes went up. Whether the starter was in complete control of the situation is doubtful (earlier, he had let them go in the Supreme with Beakstown facing in the wrong direction). After Draborgie's injury, there were four more unscheduled exits before Ventana Canyon, a 7-1 chance, got the better of Arctic Kinsman on the run to the last.
Ventana Canyon was as close as backers got to a winning favourite, with Maamur beating the heavily backed Unguided Missile and Stop The Waller, a 16-1 chance, taking the Kim Muir Chase. Richard Dunwoody, who started the day with superb prospects, managed just one win, but two second places left him a stronger favourite to be the meeting's leading jockey.
Results and other cards, page 21Reuse content