Arvika profits from Sir Des Champs’ quick exit as jumping’s best fall short

 

Jump racing’s essential paradox, that often as not the best chasers cannot jump, was perfectly illustrated at the weekend, when last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Sir Des Champs followed the Gold Cup fourth The Giant Bolster in proving unequal to the fundamental task, departing at the third fence in a three-runner race on his reappearance at Punchestown. The two-and-a-half-mile Grade One contest, so rapidly reduced to a match, went to stablemate Arvika Ligeonniere.

Trainer Willie Mullins’ son and assistant, Patrick, said: “Sir Des Champs seems fine. He walked away, it was just one of those things. At least it’s a long way from March and, hopefully, he’ll be OK in the morning. All being well, he’ll go for the Lexus at Leopardstown [28 December].” Of the winner, he added: “He’s probably better going right-handed, but he has won a Grade One around Leopardstown and he could drop back in trip.”

If Sir Des Champs was hapless, The Giant Bolster conformed entirely to type, already losing his position when unseating his rider at the 12th fence in the Listed Chase at Aintree on Saturday, his fourth flop in as many starts at the course. (For good measure, Wayward Prince, last of the seven finishers in the Gold Cup, blundered away all chance at the first and gave up the struggle before halfway.) The contest went to Unioniste, one of five winners at Aintree and Sandown for the former champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who was propelled to the head of this season’s standings as a result.

Nicholls’ other success at Aintree came with Royal Rebellion in a race over the National fences marred by the death of Plein Pouvoir, despite modifications to the course in the wake of the fatalities in the 2011 and 2012 Grand Nationals, most notably the death of the Gold Cup winner Synchronised. The cost to the reputation of racing as a whole exacted by such contests grows too great.

On the Flat, the Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin yesterday was blighted by the fatal fall of the Nunthorpe Stakes winner Jwala. The race went to the Japanese-trained Lord Kanaloa, who beat a previous Nunthorpe victor, Sole Power. Other European runners placed were The Fugue and Dunaden, second and third in the Vase, and Cirrus Des Aigles, third in the Cup to Akeed Mofeed, trained in his younger days by John Oxx.

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