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Cheltenham 2017: Douvan flops on day of high drama as Elliott shines

By Johnny Ward

IF it lingered - whispered as though the secret police could be nearby - that it felt Flat on Tuesday, Cheltenham was positively punctured yesterday.

Melon's demise in race one of the Festival was not so much an upset but one of those irksome defeats for sheep to a gamble. Melon felt like a week ago yesterday when Douvan - built up to be the best many of us had seen - ran like one that wouldn't light up Sedgefield.

He trailed seventh in a Champion Chase in which many watching will struggle to remember what else happened. Special Tiara (11/1) could do no more than make virtually all and, for hours afterwards, the demise of Douvan had the disciples run aground.

At around 6.30pm, it emerged that the vet had found Douvan to be lame behind. When or why that happened might never be known.

Special Tiara got a good Noel Fehily steer and, in winning the Champion Chase for the second time, Henry de Bromhead showed that there is hardly a better trainer in the country.

He's too polished with the media to even suggest beating a horse owned by Alan Potts - who severed ties with the stable last year - made it extra sweet, Fox Norton just failing to reel in the winner. Potts, notably, was one of the first to shake De Bromhead's hand.

For Willie Mullins, this Festival has been a stinker, the only genuine positive so far that his horses have avoided major injury. Some trainers are your best friend when winning but downright surly losers in defeat.

It is a measure of the man that Mullins fronted up after Douvan's defeat.

"Ruby (Walsh) said he didn't feel like he was moving well behind," he said.

Ruby was right and a few hours later his boss updated the press that Douvan would likely have an MRI scan.

Sometimes the vanquished draw the bulk of the attention and it was almost forgotten that Gordon Elliott recorded a double, taking his Festival tally to five, and both were ridden by amateur Jamie Codd.

Codd steered Cause Of Causes (4/1) to win the cross-country race and lifted 7/1 Fayonagh from another parish to snare the Bumper. It was an incredible effort from horse and mare.

Elliott said: "Jamie bought her and he recommended that she be trained by me, so many thanks to him.

"When she hit the hill she was last. She's something else. I can't believe it," he repeated, as if we could: he'd likely have settled for one winner last Monday.

That seems a long time ago for many punters, who were knocked out yesterday and then kicked a few more times on the floor just in case.

Might Bite, with Nico de Bonville on board, was the saviour for many in the RSA Chase -but even he contrived to almost throw it away.

De Bonville, Codd and Fehily all have two winners. Willie Mullins would take just one right now.

Mark Walsh will have none: Consul De Thaix's fall in the Neptune left him with a fractured fibula and a lay-off of up to six weeks.

Willoughby Court (14/1) edged Neon Wolf in that.

Supasundae (16/1) took the Coral Cup for Robbie Power and Jessica Harrington.

Her Someday was scratched from the Bumper (lame), connections not best pleased with this.

Harrington refused to comment. She knows, all in all, hers was a good day.

Douvan had a bad one, something he never experienced before. Defeat can taste like a death sentence.

Belfast Telegraph

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