Bitter disappointment for Douvan and Ruby Walsh in Champion Chase

Superstar chaser Douvan was bitterly disappointing as Special Tiara enjoyed his day in the sun in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

Unbeaten in 13 previous starts for Willie Mullins, Douvan was the 2-9 favourite to add to his tally in the feature event on day two of the Festival.

Already a dual winner at the showpiece meeting having landed the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and the Arkle Trophy in the last two years, this was meant to be the day Douvan graduated to championship level with honours, but instead those in attendance witnessed one of the biggest shocks in recent memory at Prestbury Park.

Douvan ridden by Ruby Walsh (centre) in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.

The prohibitively-priced seven-year-old was initially well positioned under Ruby Walsh, but the crowd gasped as he stood off the fence in front of the stands and that proved the first of a few uncharacteristically inaccurate leaps.

He was still on the premises racing down the hill, but it was soon apparent his usual spark was missing and he eventually trailed home a well-beaten seventh.

Mullins said: "He was clearly never going and I thought at the top of the hill he'd do very well to win.

"I'm assuming something happened when he put in those huge jumps, which I've never seen him do before.

Special Tiara ridden by Noel Fehily (right) and God's Own ridden by Adrian Heskin (centre) lead the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo

"I imagine I'll find a physical problem with him."

At the business end of proceedings, the Henry de Bromhead-trained Special Tiara, third in the last two Champion Chases and sixth in 2014, devoured his fences in his customary pacesetting role.

Fox Norton finished like a train from the final fence, but Special Tiara clung on by a head in the hands of Noel Fehily. Sir Valentino was another six lengths away in third.


 

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