Tiara toppled by wayward Grugy
Henry de Bromhead was controversially denied Grade One glory on successive Saturdays in England when Special Tiara was thwarted by Sire De Grugy in Sandown's Betfair Tingle Creek Chase.
Before we get into the rights and wrongs of that episode, it is worth acknowledging De Bromhead's continued influence. He might not have the numbers of Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott, but his operation on the outskirts of Waterford city is still growing in potency.
With 36 winners up, he is careering towards his previous best domestic tally of 49, sitting a clear third in the trainers' table. In De Bromhead's first season without the flag-bearing stalwart Sizing Europe, Identity Thief took his career Grade One haul to 14 in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
Significantly, having been so intrinsically associated with good horses owned by Alan and Ann Potts early in his career, De Bromhead is now training decent campaigners for Identity Thief's owner Michael O'Leary, via the Gigginstown banner, and JP McManus, among others.
He also continues to source serious talent for the Potts family, with Sizing John a novice chaser of enormous potential. When their Sizing Europe was foiled by Finian's Rainbow in the 2012 Champion Chase, after the winner impeded him as they rounded the bypassed final fence, the least that could be said was that it was an unsatisfactory outcome.
A similar sense prevails after Special Tiara's plight in the Tingle Creek. He appeared to be coming with a renewed challenge when Sire De Grugy jumped across him at final fence, visibly impeding him.
From there, Noel Fehily had to galvanise Special Tiara again. They had another go at Sire De Grugy, but Jamie Moore's mount won with a little authority by nearly a length.
Gary Moore's feats warrant special mention. He has secured three successive trebles from nine runners at Sandown this term, with Jamie's brother Josh executing a precise front-running steer aboard Ar Mad in the Henry VII Chase to ensure the stable won both of Saturday's Grade Ones.
Based on all the recent precedents, the Tingle Creek outcome was never going to be reversed. That is an almost inalienable fact, whether we agree with the rules or not, although De Bromhead is considering an appeal.
The rules as they are in Britain - and to a similar extent in Ireland - give the benefit of the doubt to the first past the post. Interference clearly occurred, but, if Simple Verse wasn't going to lose the St Leger, Storm The Stars the Great Voltigeur, Elusive Kate the 2013 Falmouth Stakes or Lord Windermere the 2014 Gold Cup, then Special Tiara hadn't a prayer.
You could readily argue that the aforementioned quartet might have been disqualified, because their jockeys had chances to minimise the damage.
Jamie Moore, in contrast, was powerless to correct Sire De Grugy's mid-air swerve, so the stewards were hardly going to throw him out.
Anyone who thought otherwise hasn't been paying attention. This is how they do it in Britain, and you sensed from Fehily's magnanimous interview that he recognised as much. You couldn't be sure that the outcome of the inquiry would be the same here where different standards apply.
Fehily will have been especially frustrated by what happened prior to the last fence.
Cognisant that Sire De Grugy was jumping left - he had been on the inside of him all the way out of the back straight.
However, Moore, who was superb in seizing control of the race over the railway fences, managed to intimidate him away from the inside after the second-last.
Sire De Grugy had jumped that markedly to its left and Fehily had endeavoured to keep his line up the inside, only for Moore to pull his mount right.
At such a critical juncture, it was enough to prompt Fehily to change tack in an effort to maintain momentum. It was a deft and canny piece of riding by Moore.
As for what followed, the way the rules are interpreted in Britain meant that the stewards had to feel sure that the incident cost Special Tiara the race to promote him.
Did Sire De Grugy improve his position as a result of the incident? There is simply no way of knowing for sure.
So, with Special Tiara held at the line and the incident having come about as a result of accidental interference, the outcome of the inquiry was inevitable.
We bemoan inconsistency but you can't argue the British stewards aren't consistent on this issue. Despite it costing an Irish horse and an old friend, I thought it was the correct call - just. to my eyes, Sire De Grugy was the best horse.
I always thought he was holding Special Tiara and felt it would have been as big an injustice to disqualify him as not for an accidental incident that you simply couldn't be sure altered the result.
Horses can't and don't race in lanes, and you have to accept that there will be collisions, especially over jumps.
The black and white rules in places like America and France arguably throw up more injustices, on the basis the best horse often gets thrown out for a minor encroachment. No one wants that.
As I stated here after the St Leger, when serious interference occurs as a result of a proactive manoeuvre by a jockey, one that might even be deemed cynical, and it costs the victim ground, then demotion must be considered. A win-at-all-costs mentality should not be fostered.
At the moment, it is, because stewards fall back on the letter of the law, as it is hard to state definitively that a victim would have beaten a perpetrator had interference not occurred. It gives them a cop-out, if you like, whereas if the benefit of the doubt lay with the victim, decisions would be harder to make.
A steward's life would become more complicated, but it could make for a fairer reality. It would also render inquiries like Saturday's less of a foregone conclusion, although I doubt it would alter that particular outcome.
The Don turns it on at Aintree
Don POLI drew first blood for Willie Mullins' legion of staying chasers at the weekend with a typically tenacious defeat of Many Clouds on Saturday.
The Grand National winner ran a blinder at Aintree but he handed Don Poli the initiative by overjumping at the final fence. Bryan Cooper's mount has a fine habit of finding for pressure and won going away by four lengths to reiterate the depth to both Mullins and Gigginstown's stayers. Cooper's performance was of note, as his tack had slipped right back, possibly as early as with a circuit to go. He did a fine job to maintain his balance.
"I was very happy with the performance considering his breast girth broke," Mullins said of Don Poli. "He is always workmanlike, and is coming along nicely. I'd imagine he will go for the Lexus."
Mullins has Vautour for the King George VI Chase and Gigginstown will run Don Cossack in that.
Still, that leaves both with multiples, so the likes of Djakadam, Valseur Lido, Don Poli, Sir Des Champs and Road To Riches could conceivably be pitted against each other in the Lexus.
With Coneygree also in the mix, the Leopardstown race really could be a spectacular spectacle.
Eric McNamara's Dare To Endeavour ran well to be second in the Becher Chase, and Gavin Cromwell advertised his status as an emerging talent by saddling Jer's Girl to a facile all-the-way win in the Listed juvenile fillies' hurdle.
Nicholls suffers double whammy
Willie Mullins's two bumper runners at Huntingdon were out of luck yesterday and Paul Nicholls endured a double indignity in the featured Peterborough Chase.
Favourite Petit Zig, which gave Vautour a fright at Ascot, fell when beaten at the final fence. To rub salt in the wound, the Grade Two was won by Nicholls' old stalwart Al Ferof, which was making its debut for his old assistant, Dan Skelton.
Tweet of the weekend
Jane Mangan (@jane_mangan)
An argument to be made 4 mandatory early track inspections when @MetEireann weather alerts are n place 4 the safety of everybody travelling.
Amateur star offers her tuppence-worth after Saturday's Navan card fell to Storm Desmond at around 9.0am.
Irish-based runners on duty for three different trainers at Musselburgh this afternoon.