Saturday was an action packed day. The weather was very poor and tested the courage of horse and jockey to the maximum. The feature race was the Tingle Creek which was a terrific race,victory went to Sire Du Grugy but not without controversy. The race itself was run a good gallop with Special Tiara taking the field along,Special Tiara did not jump with his usual fluency. Sire Du Grugy swept on from Special Tiara at the pond fence and looked to have settled it. Noel Fehily then galvanized Special Tiara to launch a challenge between the last two fences with favorite Vibrato Valtat beaten off into third. The controversial moment arrived at the last as special Tiara moved up to challenge Sire du Grugy jumped across Special Tiara jolting him and completely unbalancing Special Tiara. The two horses settled down to fight out a pulsating finish with Sire Du Grugy prevailing over Special Tiara by three parts of a length. The race was decided in the last fence incident there can be no doubt about it. The stewards called an held an enquiry, I never thought the result would be changed and the places remained unaltered.A sizable vocal section of the Sandown crowd let their displeasure known as the boos rang out for the TV replay and the official result when it was eventually called. below is a copy of the Stewards report.
The Stewards held an enquiry under Rule (B)11.6 into possible interference at the final fence. Having heard their evidence and viewed recordings of the race they found that the winner, SIRE DE GRUGY (FR), ridden by Jamie Moore, had interfered with SPECIAL TIARA, placed second, ridden by Noel Fehily. They found that the interference was accidental, in that the gelding had jumped left-handed and the rider was unable to prevent him from doing so. They considered that the interference had not improved SIRE DE GRUGY (FR)’s placing as, although the interference cost SPECIAL TIARA some ground and momentum, the winner appeared to be holding him comfortably on the run to the line. The Stewards ordered the placings to remain unaltered.
The Stewards have their job to do which often is not easy but I do not think you will find many neutrals who would agree with the above report. I myself and our members backed Special Tiara but that is not the issue,that is the rough and tumble of betting. My take is Sire Du Grugy definitely improved his position by colliding with Special Tiara. A disappointed Henry De Bromhead afterwards said: "He should have won, obviously he was coming to win the race and the other horse took him out, it was as simple as that" .The problem for racing in this instance is for non racing folk the stewards result is hard to explain. Sandown today would have been populated by lots of people attending Christmas functions how do they see this result? Racing of course should not sacrifice itself on the alter of being "all things to all people",that said its a debate worth having. I say that given the recent high profile cases in the Irish Champion stakes and The St Leger at Doncaster of Stewards enquirys.
Don Poli returned to action and he did what he was entitled to do at the weights winning by four lengths from Many Clouds. The race was not plain sailing for Don Poli who suffered a slipped saddle on the first circuit. Bryan Copper stated afterwards "He did it well. He's always going to come out better at the end of a battle. He's tough. He's never going to look impressive in what he does but it was his first run - Many Clouds had had a run - and my saddle slipped, which had to have an effect. It must have been pinching him. I have long suspected that Don Poli only does what he has to,there are plenty of UK (mostly) racing journalists who want to call Don Poli slow. This corner was delighted with Don Poli, it is my take he definitely will stay the Cheltenham Gold Cup trip .I also suspect even those close to Don Poli ,trainer and rider are not certain how good Don Poli is given the nature of his racing style. As is typical some bookmakers took their chance to cut the price of Don Poli for Cheltenham. I still feel Coneygree should be favorite but no connections of rival horses will want to see Don Poli closing in on them two fences out in March . The Gold Cup dream lives on for Don Poli .