Mall Dini had to survive a stewards' enquiry before he was named as the winner of the Pertemps Network Final at Cheltenham this afternoon.
The six-year-old had stayed on strongly up the hill to record a three quarter length success but celebrations were quickly subdued after an enquiry was announced. The 14/1 chance had veered to his left immediately after jumping the final flight which caused interference to the eventual runner up, Arpege d'Alene, and the luckless third placed horse, If In Doubt, who was twice hampered going to the last and was then carried across the track as Mall Dini went left.
However, the result stood, giving Irish trainer Patrick Kelly his first Festival success. It was a case of third time lucky for Kelly who had had two previous Festival runners.
"It's nice to win it," said Kelly.
"He's a nice horse and is progressing all the time. I'm very happy with him. It's very exciting as I've been here before twice but haven't had much luck. In 1990, I had a nice horse in the Supreme Novices' which didn't win (Art Trail in 1990) and I had another a couple of years later in the National Hunt Chase in, which Willie Mullins rode (Take The Town in 1994), but unfortunately he was unseated so today is the first bit of luck I've had.
"I've only got a small number of horses. Philip (Reynolds, the owner) and I have been friends for quite a while now and wanted me to get him a horse. I saw this fellow and bought him off Tom Costello junior as I'd worked for his Dad a couple of times. Tom said it was quite a nice horse so I went down to see him with Philip and he bought him. He's a fine, big looking horse with a nice pedigree - the Costellos have some very nice horses. The boys kept saying the better the ground, the nicer horse I had so I wasn't worried about that. He is only a novice but he has plenty of experience."
1) Mall Dini (Philip Reynolds) Pat Kelly IRE 6-10-11 Davy Russell 14/1 2) Arpege D'alene (Mr & Mrs Paul Barber, Potensis Bloodstock) Paul Nicholls 6-11-04 Sean Bowen 14/1 3) If In Doubt (J P McManus) Philip Hobbs 8-11-04 Richard Johnson 10/1 4) Taglietelle (Olduvai Syndicate) Gordon Elliott IRE 7-11-09 Jack Kennedy (3) 14/1
11/2 Fav Leave At Dawn (9th). 24 ran. Distances: ¾, hd, 1½
1st winner at The Festival for trainer Pat Kelly; 17th winner at The Festival for jockey Davy Russell. BetBright Cup: Great Britain 9, Ireland 7
DOWN, THEN RIGHT UP, FOR DAVY RUSSELL
Unseated at the start in the opening JLT Novices' Chase, Davy Russell picked himself up, swore a little and threw his whip down, then rode the winner of the Pertemps Network Final.
Russell was quick to praise Patrick Kelly, the trainer of winner Mall Dini, who is owned by Philip Reynolds, the son of former Irish Taoiseach Albert Reynolds. Mall Dini, a 14/1 shot, won by three-quarters of a length and a head from Arpege D'Alene (14/1) and If In Doubt (10/1), with top-weight Taglietelle (14/1) in fourth.
Of Mall Dini, Russell said: "The race went well and Pat, who is a genius, had him spot on. We felt he would enjoy the drier ground and that proved correct."
When asked about the unseat in the first race, which came after the runners had been asked to come in for a second time and undertake a standing start, Russell said: "It was frustrating - there was no indication we were about to go and my horse was static. It was like he was stuck to the ground and I needed to move him [before the tape went up], but when I pulled him sideways he went away from the tape, ran into Bryan [Cooper on Outlander] and there was only one route for me [out of the saddle]. It was all quite sharp, when normally you have a bit of time to get organised for the restart.
"I didn't say anything to the starter, I was just frustrated, not for me, but for the connections of the horse. I can go 40 minutes later to ride a different horse for a different trainer, but Andy Lynch [Zabana's trainer] is 70-odd years of age and has come here with one horse. He is a good loser as well as a good winner and understood. It's the game we're in.
"This horse [Mall Dini] is owned by a good man and I'm not going to let it [the unseat] dilute this win. I'm lucky to ride for good people."
Russell rides Don Poli in tomorrow's Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, and said of that horse: "I'm delighted to get a ride in the race and we'll be giving it our best shot. You need a classy horse to stay in touch, and that could be his biggest challenge - softer ground might have helped, not so much for his sake, but to slow down the others."
BOWEN: 'I WAS PROBABLY THERE TOO SOON'
Arpege D'Alene finished second to Mall Dini in the Pertemps Network Final by three-quarters of a length, with If In Doubt a head further back in third.
Six-year-old Arpege D'Alene, a 14/1 shot, was trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Sean Bowen.
Bowen said: "I was probably there too soon. My horse jumped the second-last, travelled his way to the front, looked around, missed the last and ran on again, which was a bit of shame, but there we go."
If In Doubt was trained by Philip Hobbs and ridden by Richard Johnson. He had an unlucky run, being twice hampered going to the last hurdle, and then was carried across the track across the final flight.
There was a stewards' enquiry following the race, but the places remained unaltered.
The Pertemps Final is three mile handicap hurdle run on the Thursday of the Festival.
Call The Cops won the race in 2015 for trainer Nicky Henderson and jockey Andrew Tinkler.
Fingal Bay won in 2014 and was a big stats buster in the process. Prior to that win horses carrying top weight and going off favourite had a poor record.
Pertemps Final Trends 2003-2015
Up to 2013 just two of the previous winners have carried more than 10-11
In 2013 the winner carried 11-4
In 2014 Fingal Bay became the first top weight to win the race
10 out of 13 had a prep run between 20 and 48 days beforehand
Fate of Favourite 1 7 0 8 0 2/8 0 0 0 0 0 1 7
Market Position of Winner 1 0 5 0 7 0 9 5 8 4 0 1 3
Just 5 of the last 13 won last time out
Only one five year old has won in the race's history