'Awesome' God's Own adds to Vautour's woes
On an evening of upsets at Punchestown, Vautour's once impermeable reputation suffered another blow when Paddy Brennan conspired to foil him on British raider God's Own in the BoyleSports Champion Chase.
In the Melling Chase at Aintree, Vautour crashed out in spectacular style to leave God's Own pick up the pieces. Fortuitous was the backhanded adjective deployed to describe what might have seemed a hollow victory.
However, God's Own, just fourth in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, set the record straight in unambiguous fashion here, as the two-mile experiment with Vautour went up in flames. Ruby Walsh said that he was "flat out the whole way" on the odds-on shot, but Vautour rallied gamely to grab second, having been outpaced as the trail-blazing Special Tiara wilted.
Splitting God's Own (9/1) and Simonsig, though, hardly constitutes a satisfactory end to a season for a horse of which so much has been expected.
Chinned by Cue Card in the King George, a bloodless Ryanair Chase triumph is Vautour's only win in four Grade One starts against senior opposition. God's Own, trained by Tom George, now boasts twice as many, plus another here as a novice in 2014.
"He was awesome today," Galway native Brennan said after the two-length verdict. "You wondered if he was just lucky last time, but, around here, he is unbelievable. It is lovely to win a Grade One here in Ireland - that's something I've always wanted to do." Brennan, who endured a torturous Gold Cup fall aboard Cue Card, will this evening be reunited with that emphatic Aintree winner.
"Obviously it's a big couple of days and I didn't expect this to happen today, so hopefully it is just a bonus," he added. "God's Own is highly strung and I've got it wrong on him a couple of times, so it is lovely to repay Tom and the owners with two Grade Ones."
Walsh, Mullins and Rich Ricci unanimously cited the trip for Vautour's latest reversal and indicated that he will step back up in distance next term.
Mullins departed with the runner-up in each of the card's three Grade Ones. In the Growise Champion Novices' Chase, Outlander was trumped by Zabana, and there won't be a more redemptive winner all week. Davy Russell was unseated from the horse as a result of a foul-up by the starter when they were fancied at Cheltenham.
That was a cruel blow for Andy Lynch's five-horse stable in Co Meath, but Russell made all on Zabana (7/2) here to secure compensation, although the antics of the loose Ballychorus nearly caused carnage.
"He nearly fell at the first and then the loose horse nearly took him out, so I was wondering if our luck was out again," Lynch beamed after welcoming back his first Grade One winner.
"I never had him in better shape than I had for Cheltenham - I sank after it. That was his day, and it took a while to get him back, but he had some luck in the end today. He'll probably start next season in the John Durkan."
Yorkhill ran like a horse heading over the top at Aintree and duly shot his bolt in the Herald Champion Novices' Hurdle. He trailed home in fourth behind the Jessica Harrington-trained Dont Touch It. In truth, the race fell apart when Yorkhill misfired.
With just one win to its name in four hurdle starts, Dont Touch It is hardly precocious, and he did his best to add another defeat to his ratio here, pulling up in front after crossing the final flight with an authoritative advantage.
Bryan Cooper seized the chance to drive Petit Mouchoir into the lead, but Dont Touch It eventually condescended to go forward for Barry Geraghty again. The 16/1 shot scored by half-a-length, having sat stone last until they left the back straight the final time.
"That was a hell of a step up for a horse that has only won a maiden hurdle," Harrington admitted of JP McManus' charge. "He was going as fast as he could early on, but Barry said he got there too soon in the end."
Mullins confirmed that it was a "race too far" for Yorkhill, which had already won three Grade Ones this year and was tasting defeat for a first time in seven starts. Normal service resumed when he got off the mark along with son Patrick in the finale courtesy of Cilaos Emery (10/3 fav).
Earlier, the Goffs Land Rover Bumper went the way of Robert Tyner's Coeur De Lion. Well beaten in two hurdles, Barry O'Neill's mount had been nibbled at in the morning into an SP of 22/1, and justified that support to thwart the Mullins-ridden favourite Jenkins on its bumper debut.
The festival began with Enda Bolger and Nina Carberry taking the Ladies Cup over the banks course with McManus's 5/4 favourite, Wish Ye Didnt. It started in identical fashion in 2015, although it was a long day before anything else that could be remotely described as routine would unfold.