Rock On win marred by Darlan fatality

 

Noel Fehily gave the winner a grateful pat down the shoulder, but his sombre expression already disclosed some sense of the disaster that would gouge all joy from their success. Moments earlier, he had sent Rock On Ruby over the last flight with Tony McCoy and Darlan breathing down their necks. Now one of the sport's rising stars lay dead on the turf, his dignity being hastily preserved from horrified spectators by the erection of screens. McCoy was unharmed in the fall, but even this iron man was too upset to ride again yesterday. A race that had introduced incongruous lustre to a Monday at Doncaster instead renewed the bleakest challenge faced by those who tend and cherish any horse bred and raised for competition.

The margin between fulfilment and despair had been appallingly abrupt. Anxious to preserve Darlan from a buffeting headwind, McCoy had kept his mount in Rock On Ruby's slipstream until the final obstacle in the 32Red Hurdle. Though quietly squeezed along, Darlan still looked full of energy and seemed on the brink of announcing himself unequivocally as the leading British rival to Hurricane Fly in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, five weeks today. After all, he was about to run down the defending champion. In a race laid on only because other Cheltenham trials had been lost to the weather, connections must have felt everything was working out perfectly.

And then Darlan took one of those falls that would not permit them even a split second of hope. He stepped at the hurdle and crashed on to his neck. The anguish of Nicky Henderson, his trainer, was transparent. "Some game, isn't it?" he said. "Why is it always the good ones?"

Even in such a powerful stable, Darlan will leave a bitter void for those who cared for him in all weathers; who had hoped that the fall he took a year ago, when again on the point of a breakthrough success at Newbury, would prove the limit of the distress he might ever cause them.

But some sympathy should also be reserved for Harry Fry, forced to place one of the most rewarding moments of his young career into harrowing perspective. Having supervised Rock On Ruby as an anonymous lieutenant to Paul Nicholls last year, this time round he is skilfully building the horse back to peak form in his own name.

But he made a suitable priority of commiserating with the connections of Darlan before acknowledging satisfaction with the way Rock On Ruby had progressed from his comeback run – not least because Fehily had felt his mount to be idling in front. "He'll come on again for today," Fry said. "We can take him home and put the finishing touches on him. He's a really tough horse. He joined Countrywide Flame turning in, and it's a long way home, but he'll keep galloping and keep finding all day. The whole season has been built around Cheltenham and we can go there full of confidence."

Countrywide Flame, also a Festival winner last year, set a good pace and rallied well to go down by three lengths. John Quinn, his trainer, feels he can return to spring ground at Cheltenham with "a sporting each-way chance".

Those who can already find it in their hearts to review the revised odds will find that Hurricane Fly is now as short as 13-8 with Stan James, followed by Grandouet 5-1, Zarkandar 6-1 and Rock On Ruby 7-1.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap: Riskier (4.20 Sedgefield)

Energetic type will relish this shorter trip after shaping well on his return.

Next best: Beckhani (3.00 Market Rasen)

Where the Money's Going: Arabella Boy is 6-1 from 8-1 with Hills for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence