The old horse probably knows his own way round, anyway, but those who kept the faith will, nonetheless, be indebted to J T McNamara for prolonging Garde Champetre's reign over the cross-country course at Cheltenham yesterday.
Any other beneficiary, after all, might have fatally skewed the atmosphere after the Glenfarclas Chase from farce to fury. As it was, the fact that seven other riders had taken the wrong course ultimately allowed Garde Champetre a success no neutral would begrudge. It was the veteran's sixth over these fences and, with fate hardly likely to intervene so benignly again, perhaps his last.
As trainer Enda Bolger acknowledged, Garde Champatre would otherwise have finished a long way down the field, but at least his connections' methods came to count in the madness. For Bolger's second runner, Chamirey, was one of only two others to take the correct course – ridden by Nina Carberry, herself very experienced round here. "JT and Nina know the place like the back of their hand," Bolger (above) said. "But this kind of thing will happen in these races, at Punchestown and in France as well. Lady Luck was with us." Jacqui Coward was given a 12-day suspension for leading the rest astray.
The chaos distracted attention from another prolific afternoon for Nicky Henderson, three winners here being complemented by a double at Doncaster, where Sprinter Sacre made much the most flamboyant chasing debut of the season. "I'd have been disappointed if he didn't raise a few eyebrows," Henderson admitted. While he had little to beat, Betfred justifiably go 6-1 from 8-1 for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy.