Diego Du Charmil had to survive an extraordinary incident alongside stablemate Capeland at the final fence – and then an inevitable stewards’ inquiry – to win the Byrne Group Handicap Chase at Ascot.
Lorcan Williams and Diego Du Charmil were being strongly challenged by Bryony Frost on Capeland when the narrow leader appeared to be spooked by loose horse Ballywood and veered sharply left towards the wing of the fence.
He managed to jump the obstacle – albeit a foot higher than usual, over the upright just inside the wing, while Capeland was forced to crash into the plastic – and it was a remarkable effort from both horse and rider to rally after losing ground and momentum to defy the chasing pack and lead on the line.
Diego Du Charmil, who was completing a double for Nicholls after Frost and Ecco’s 11-10 win in the GL Events UK Novices’ Hurdle, prevailed at 13-2 by half a length from favourite Clondaw Castle.
Capeland was, however, disqualified – being deemed to have taken the wrong course, after which he was eased by Frost once their chance was gone.
On a day filled with drama, there were moments of alarm too in both the feature Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase – won impressively by Kim Bailey’s Vinndication – and Gumball’s victory in the Sodexo Handicap Hurdle.
None was quite on the scale of what happened as Nicholls’ two contenders approached the last with the Listed two-mile one-furlong handicap chase apparently between them.
Williams could eventually breathe a sigh of relief when the stewards ruled Diego Du Charmil should keep the race.
He told Sky Sports Racing: “I’ve never seen (anything) like that, or ridden one like it – but I have today!
“He’s done very well…he ran on again, and still won.
“He’s just obviously followed the loose horse. Being an older horse, I didn’t think he’d actually do that.
“But we’ve gone in between the wings, and we’ve jumped the fence. I jumped the biggest part of the fence, between the wings.
“He was clear (of the pack) and always doing enough.”
Asked if he would have felt hard done by to have the race taken away, he said: “Yes, definitely.
“We’ve taken off and jumped the fence. Unfortunately, Bryony wasn’t so lucky and went in between the wing and the fence.”
Both horses and jockeys were uninjured – as were all involved in two further curious incidents in later races.
Vinndication’s emphatic five-length victory under David Bass was achieved with the minimum fuss, as the market spoke correctly for the 2-1 favourite in the valuable Grade Three handicap.
That was not the full story, however, because it appeared a potentially serious mishap was narrowly avoided when a groundsman gathered his fork and moved only in the nick of time off the track back inside the rail as Go Conquer led the field into the straight.
Vinndication’s back-to-form victory from course specialist Regal Encore was otherwise seamless, and no surprise to Bailey – who had only briefly considered alternative engagements for the six-year-old’s return this weekend.
He said: “I thought there’s no point going for Wetherby or Carlisle, so we rerouted our plans – in the end, in a handicap, if he’s as good as we think he is then he’s thrown in.
“He’s had the wind operation from last year, and he’s definitely improved. We were very hopeful he’d do what he’s done.
“We were disappointed he got beaten at Sandown, and Cheltenham was a run too many.”
Gumball’s all-the-way Listed success was straightforward enough too – until the shadow of the post.
The 11-2 winner began to falter under Ben Jones in the final yards, holding on by just a neck, and Frost became unbalanced on Nicholls’ strong-finishing runner-up Red Force One – and was eventually unseated after the line.
Gumball’s owner Terry Warner was, of course, concentrating on his horse’s victory – and reported Philip Hobbs’ five-year-old may be seen next in Cheltenham’s Greatwood Hurdle this month.
“He’s jumped well. I thought he’d run really well – I’m not surprised he’s won,” he said.
“He’ll probably run in that good race at Cheltenham next month – which Rooster Booster won, and went on to win the Champion Hurdle.”