Celestial Halo crashes to earth on chasing debut
Former Champion Hurdle runner-up Celestial Halo was brought down to earth on his chasing bow at Exeter yesterday when he and Ruby Walsh came a cropper four from home in a dramatic conclusion to the Best Mate Beginners' Chase.
Celestial Halo was galloping comfortably alongside Rougham, but the 1/4 favourite judged the first in the home straight incorrectly and came down, while Rougham fell independently at the same obstacle. That allowed Diamond Brook to go on and win the race for trainer Nick Williams and jockey Daryl Jacob.
"He was jumping super before that, but he just got on top of it," said Walsh. "It's better he did it then than in the Arkle."
However, trainer Paul Nicholls had some concerns: "It's not ideal. I'll have to talk to (owner) Andy Stewart and see what we do. Plenty good ones have fallen on their debut and we still have the option of going back over hurdles.
"I've had it in the back of my mind that he's by Galileo and he's not chasing bred. He has always been very fast over his hurdles, but he might not take to fences."
Rougham's trainer Philip Hobbs was more fortunate on the rest of the card. Dare Me is regarded as one of Hobbs' best prospects and the 4/9 market leader took the Bathwick Tyres Novices' Hurdle by 12 lengths.
Hobbs' dual-pronged approach to the staying novice chase yielded an early fall from Estates Recovery, but an easy victory for 11/10 favourite Quinz.
In the opening novices' hurdle, Nicholls saddled the first two home, with Garton King (7/2) having more in reserve than the hard-pulling Royal Collonges.