Medermit makes most of Johnson woe
THERE was drama aplenty at Exeter yesterday with Richard Johnson having a day to forget despite riding the opening winner on the card.
Johnson looked to be on his way to victory in both the featured Haldon Gold Cup and the three-runner novice chase, only to endure the ignominy of unseating from his mounts late on.
Ruby Walsh wasn't immune to misfortune as he also suffered a reversal at the last fence in the novices' chase.
However, the merit of Medermit's victory shouldn't be undervalued in the feature after he capitalised on the final-fence exit of Johnson's Captain Chris.
The Alan King-trained grey responded to a positive ride by Robert Thornton to put his rivals to the sword in the straight.
Philip Hobbs' Captain Chris rallied to challenge Medermit and Cornas at the last, but last year's Irish Independent Arkle Trophy hero blundered badly and unseated Richard Johnson.
That left Medermit to score by a length and a quarter, with Oiseau De Nuit back in third and Ghizao only fourth.
"I'm sure he wants further. He's in the Paddy Power (Gold Cup), but I think that's going to come too quick," King said. "The Peterborough Chase would be a logical step but whether there would be something in between I don't know.
"I think I got it wrong last year dropping him back to two miles. We'll definitely go up to two and a half miles plus from now on."
Captain Chris' connections were also out of luck when the odds-on Menorah unseated Johnson at the second last when seemingly having the novice chase at his mercy on his fencing debut.
That left Walsh's mount Sam Winner in front but he landed too steep over the last and came down. Outsider of the three, Shammick Boy (16/1), negotiated the final obstacle safely to score for trainer Victor Dartnall and jockey Andrew Glassonbury.
"We've all had our share of bad luck in the past and when it goes right you've got to enjoy it," Dartnall said.
Menorah was left unchanged at 10/1 for the Arkle at Cheltenham with Victor Chandler despite his mishap.
Earlier on the card, Hobbs and Johnson did strike with Irish point-to-point winner Allthekingshorses (13/2), which made a successful debut under rules in the staying novice hurdle -- overcoming Rocky Creek by a neck.
Nicholls and Walsh also enjoyed better fortune when Jump City made no mistake in the two-mile novice hurdle. Leading three out, the 4/9 shot shrugged aside Hayjack to win by four and a half lengths.
"I was pleased with that. He had a good run last year at Wincanton when he was second to Smad Place," said Nicholls. "He's done a lot of work at home. He was fairly straight but he's bound to improve."
The tailed-off Latin Scholar's amateur rider William Potter was banned for five days for using his whip when out of contention.
Former jockey Kieran Burke saddled his first winner with his first runner since taking over the reins from Pat Rodford, for whom he was jockey, when Fortification turned an eventful staying handicap chase into a procession.
On the flat, Paul Hanagan took a big step towards being crowned champion jockey for the second successive season by riding a 73/1 treble at Redcar.
Hanagan started the day on 160 winners for the campaign, five clear of his only serious remaining rival in the title race, Silvestre de Sousa.
With the Brazilian rider thousands of miles away after riding Mark Johnston's Fox Hunt to a creditable seventh in the Melbourne Cup, the champion further extended his lead to eight .
Hanagan got off the mark for the day on Personal Touch, which won the second division of the juvenile maiden in a photo-finish, before following up on Elspeth's Boy in the seller and then guiding Rose Of Sarratt to victory in the staying handicap.
With just four days of the Flat turf season left, the show rolls on to Nottingham and Kempton today. Hanagan heads to both meetings for a total 11 rides, while De Sousa is due back in Britain this morning and is also doing a double-shift, booked for 14 mounts.