Monday 25 March 2019

History repeats itself for Ruby Walsh as Benie Des Dieux saves bookies millions after dramatic fall

History repeats itself for Walsh after Benie Des Dieux's fall saves bookies millions in dramatic finale to Mares' Hurdle

Benie Des Dieux, ridden by jockey Ruby Walsh, comes crashing down at the last in the Mares’ Hurdle on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival yesterday. Photo: PA
Benie Des Dieux, ridden by jockey Ruby Walsh, comes crashing down at the last in the Mares’ Hurdle on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival yesterday. Photo: PA
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Punters were left reeling after day one of the Cheltenham Festival as Ruby Walsh suffered deja vu aboard Benie Des Dieux with the fall of the hot favourite in the Mares' Hurdle saving the bookmakers millions.

Memories of Annie Power's fall in the same race four years ago immediately came to mind when Willie Mullins' Benie Des Dieux (10/11 favourite) and Walsh parted company at the last when three lengths ahead with the race at their mercy. Benie Des Dieux hit 1.03 (1/33) in-running and it was a bitter pill to swallow for owner Rich Ricci, who has had plenty of unfavourable press following last week's closure of bookmaker BetBright, of which he was chairman.

"It has been a very difficult week, but the horse is great and Ruby is fine, which is the most important thing.

"I don't want the trolls to attack Ruby. He is the best jockey in the world and it happens," Ricci said.

"I just hope he is protected from the same nonsense he got the last day (when Annie Power fell four years ago). This game is tough and I take a lot and I'm tough. I am sorry for people who punted her.

"I know that I will get stick for that as well but it just doesn't matter - if she's up, that's fine. It's just heartbreaking, but she's up and that's the most important thing."

Walsh had earlier left punters smiling when landing the Festival opener aboard Mullins' Klassical Dream (6/1) but it was a rare success for punters on an unpredictable day.

"The bookies are 1-0 up after day one, with both the results and Mother Nature showing no mercy at Cheltenham," Rachael Kane, spokesperson for Paddy Power said. "With strong gales afoot, we could be blown of course in an instant, as could the entire Festival, so we're bracing ourselves for both,"

Day two of the Festival is in serious doubt with strong winds of 40-50mph set to hit the Cotswolds today. Should today's card be cancelled, it will be moved to Saturday.

It's 11 years on from the cancellation of the Festival's day-two programme due to powerful gales at the Gloucestershire track and the same fate could befall a card due to feature Altior's back-to-back Champion Chase bid.

An inspection will be staged at 8.0 this morning, but it is possible a decision on whether racing can safely take place will be deferred until later today - when the picture is clearer - with the first race due off at 1.30.

A reminder that you can get all the behind-the-scenes action from the 2019 Cheltenham Festival  with Michael Verney over on the Independent Sport Instagram page.

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