An old grey mare called Topless finished riderless in the Carlsberg UK Handicap Chase at Taunton yesterday to leave her jockey, James Davies, probably the most embarrassed rider in the weighing room for some time.
The 24-year-old jockey had driven Topless into the lead at the third-last fence and jumped the last with a four-length advantage. Topless then started to extend her lead, but also veered towards the entrance to the parade ring on the run-in. She jinked to her left and then she jinked to her right and as Davies tried to correct her manoeuvre he suddenly found himself with no horse underneath him and gravity took over.
The horse's trainer, the Dorset-based Neil Mulholland is in his first season with a licence and has already sent out 11 winners. "I was walking down from the stand, thinking 'this is No12', when I looked up and saw James come off," Mulholland said.
Some trainers,and certainly some owners, would exclaim a condemning "that jockey will never ride for me again" utterance in such circumstances, but Mulholland was rather more philosophical. "I've been a jockey myself, and I know what it can be like. You have good days and bad days in this game and this was one of the bad ones. But everybody makes mistakes and nobody died.
"James gave her a superb ride until the final five or six strides. He just said one word when he came back in, 'sorry'. The owners are good racing people and they've given him no hassle. Certainly he'll ride for me again."
It has not been a fortunate season for Topless, who was brought down in one race and badly hampered in another. After composing himself, Davies was able to add: "She has had plenty of bad luck and didn't put a foot wrong all the way round. She jumped brilliant. I'm gutted for everybody involved.
"Neil Mulholland has been a big supporter of mine and that would have been my first winner for him. On the run-in she was heading left towards the parade ring so I pulled my stick through to give her a smack on the left side and she has then gone the other way and I lost my balance."
Victory on the eight-year-old mare would have been a fourth success of the season for Davies, who has recorded only 22 wins in the last five years.
He is certainly not the first jockey to fall from his perch in such circumstances. Even the great Lester Piggott came off a horse called Campanologist at Windsor when the jockey was at the height of his powers in the 1970s.
And there are of course a variety of ways in which jockeys can make fools of themselves in a race. The most common is failing to familiarise themselves with the track layout and thus taking the wrong course, or riding a finish a circuit too early, or simply mistaking the location of the winning post.
Davies' fall to earth from Topless left another 9-2 chance, Pangbourne to come home a distance clear of the rest, a result which proved costly for two betting syndicates as they missed out on the Tote's Super7 prize. The two ticket holders would have scooped £194,126 apiece if Topless and Davies had remained a partnership.
For some, the result brought a windfall. Two Irish bookmaking firms have promised to pay out on both horses and for those gamblers who bet in running on exchanges the result produced a massive payout. Seven Betfair punters managed to back Pangbourne at 999-1. One customer scooped most of it, placing £111 at 999-1 and winning £111,677.07 on the race.
Nap: Kate's Gift
NB: Strabinios King