Agony for Galopin Des Champs as final-fence exit hands Bob Olinger 999-1 victory
Thursday: Turners Novices' Chase, Cheltenham
Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore had to be reminded to celebrate after Bob Olinger capitalised on a dramatic final-fence fall by favourite Galopin Des Champs to record a bittersweet success.
We were promised a spectacle between two top novice chasers and Galopin Des Champs fulfilled his end of the bargain, overcoming some exuberant early jumping to hold the advantage over Bob Olinger, who was falling behind in their game of cat and mouse.
There were question marks over their jumping and both made mistakes, but it was Galopin Des Champs who took the initiative and was met with a roar from the crowd as he built an unassailable lead, while his rival was unable to challenge him. Such was his superiority, he was matched at 1.01 for £39,448 on the Betfair Exchange, with Bob Olinger matched at 999-1 for £10.
But then it happened. Having been criticised for jumping too boldly on take-off, it was landing that proved an issue this time as Galopin Des Champs slipped under Paul Townend and joined a long list of talented festival losers to agonisingly crash out at the final obstacle.
"We looked well beaten," said De Bromhead, who sounded deflated as he balanced the joy of winning a Grade 1 with the disappointment of Bob Olinger having looked well beaten. "I was surprised to see him come off the bridle as early as he did. I didn't think I'd ever see a horse make him look like that.
"You don't want to win like that. We've lost races like that and it happens. We were lucky to win it and we're delighted in a way, but Rachael doesn't think he was 100 per cent so we'll have to see if there's something wrong. Always expect the unexpected – we need to show a bit of joy as well!"
The race was billed as a clash in styles between the fast-finishing Ballymore winner Bob Olinger and Galopin Des Champs, who had stamina on his side, but it was never really a contest as the latter galloped his rival into submission and began to stretch clear.
This two-horse contest then swiftly became a procession after the last, with Bob Olinger finishing 40 lengths clear of Busselton.
"It's fantastic to win but nobody likes winning like that," said Blackmore. "It's brilliant Paul and Galopin Des Champs are okay. I was happy with his jumping throughout. He made one or two little errors and on the whole he jumped well, but there's still some room for improvement.
"At the fourth-last, I thought I'd be travelling a bit better. When I galloped up the hill, he didn't do it in the fashion he did last year and I was never going to catch Paul if he stood up at the last. It's a weird feeling but this is one of the best horses in the yard and I'm not too disheartened because I know it wasn't the true Bob today."
Galopin Des Champs was cut to 3-1 (from 6) for the 2022 Gold Cup, while Bob Olinger was unchanged at 16-1 with Paddy Power.
How the incident unfolded
Ruby Walsh reacts to the fall on ITV
"I've been that soldier and you can see it in Paul Townend's face. I'm heartbroken for him and the horse too, he was spectacular."
Read more from Ruby Walsh here
Galopin Des Champs: the in-running comment
Led, 5 lengths ahead 2nd, not fluent 6th, mistake 9th, going easily 3 out, pushed along and went clear when good jump 2 out, 12 lengths ahead when fell last
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