Loughran has day to forget

 

Leopardstown report: It's not often the possible decline of a great champion gets pushed out of the spotlight but it was Roger Loughran's misfortune that his bizarrely premature celebrations at Leopardstown yesterday managed to banish Moscow Flyer to the wings.

Loughran looked to have secured the greatest success of his fledgling professional career as Central House led the €70,000 Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase, with the opposition beaten and over a hundred yards to go.

But the 26-year-old Co Meath jockey, who only turned pro a fortnight ago, then somehow mistook the end of the inside running rail for the finish line and stood up in the irons, punching the air in celebration.

Andrew McNamara on Hi Cloy couldn't believe his luck and the Michael Hourigan-trained horse pounced in the final strides to defeat Fota Island by three-parts of a length with a red-faced Loughran only third a further length and a half behind.

He returned to boos from sections of the huge holiday crowd around the parade ring and was escorted back to the weighroom by Central House's trainer Dessie Hughes.

The stewards promptly handed a 14-day suspension to Loughran who apologised to them and forfeited his riding fee.

"I can't recall a jockey losing a race in such circumstances. Riders have stopped riding in the past and lost a place but I can't remember anything like that," said the senior stipendiary steward Peter Matthews.

"The stewards have the power to suspend for anything up to 50 days but 14 days would be a normal penalty in these circumstances. It was a severe error," he added.

It was certainly a painful experience for the claiming jockey who has ridden 41 winners in his career to date and enjoyed the biggest of them on the same Central House in last month's Fortria Chase.

Central House was a clear 11 to 4 second favourite for yesterday's Grade One race and there were plenty of punters sore at Loughran.

However, there was also widespread sympathy for the rider who has worked for Hughes for the last five years.

"The man who didn't make an error isn't a man. That's all it is, human error. I feel sorry for Roger and Dessie but these things happen.

"They've happened before and they'll happen again," said Hi Cloy's sporting trainer Michael Hourigan.

The Grand National winner Amberleigh House was once trained by Hourigan and he is now aiming his three-time Grade One winner at Aintree next April.

Even with all the controversy there was still considerable interest around the fourth finisher with Jessica Harrington adopting a "wait and see" attitude to Moscow Flyer's future.

He remains second favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase but was extended to 4 to 1 by yesterday's sponsors. The English horse Kauto Star is now an even warmer favourite, being slashed into 7 to 4.

"He is just not sparking and we'll have to wait and see. Maybe in his old age better ground is more important to him. But there will be no hasty decisions," Harrington said. "He actually hasn't been beaten that far. He was sick but we thought he was coming back to himself. Possibly he will be better with some sun on his back," she added.

* A record modern-day crowd of 20,445 packed into Leopardstown yesterday which was a 3,657 increase on last year. Bookmaker turnover was up over €300,000 to €2,203,271 while there was a Tote course record total of €751,944, up €66,330 on 2004.