Can a horse race be declared void?

A ‘void’ horse race is one that is, officially, judged not to have taken place; no official result is recorded, no prize money is awarded and all bets are cancelled. Perhaps the most famous void race of all time was 1993 Grand National, later dubbed ‘The Race That Never Was’, in which the majority of the jockeys failed to pull up after a second false start and seven horses completed the four-and-a-half mile race.

Generally speaking, any National Hunt race, over hurdles or fences, can be deemed void if all of the horses fail to finish; since November, 2009, the remounting of horses has been banned by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), increasing the likelihood of this scenario. A race can also be deemed void if the whole field takes the wrong course or in the event of a serious incident, such a stricken horse lying on the course in a position where it cannot be safely bypassed. In the latter case, ground staff display a yellow ‘stop-race’ flag, which indicates to jockeys that they must stop riding and the race must be declared void.

Historically, a race that started before its advertised time was declared void but, although this is no longer the case, modern horse racing is still subject to all kinds of imponderables which, while hardly run-of-the-mill, can cause a race to be deemed void. Examples include, but are by no means limited to, malfunctioning floodlights or stalls and spectator interference.

Was Outsider Caughoo’s Grand National win legitimate?

Nowadays, the Grand National at Aintree attracts an estimated television audience of 500 million, worldwide, so the idea of anyone ‘cheating’ in plain view of dozens of television cameras is, frankly, ludicrous. However, in the days before regular television coverage of the National, which began in 1960, that was the accusation levelled against the 1947 winner Caughoo or, more particularly, his jockey Edward ‘Eddie’ Dempsey.

The 1947 Grand National has the distinction of being the first to be run on a Saturday, but heavy rain, followed by thick fog, rendered Aintree almost unraceable and limited visibility from the grandstands to the final two obstacles. Nevertheless, the second largest field in Grand National history, 57, set off and, ten minutes later, Caughoo, an unconsidered 100/1 outsider, emerged from the gloom twenty lengths ahead of his nearest pursuer.

Daniel McCann, jockey of the second horse home, Lough Conn, later accused Dempsey of having concealed Caughoo in the fog, near the twelfth fence, after which the runners cross the Melling Road, near the Anchor Bridge, and only rejoining the race as the remainder of the field re-entered the ‘racecourse proper’ on the second circuit. Dempsey flatly denied any such notion and successfully defended legal action by McCann, by his victory was dogged by suspicion for decades afterwards.

Long after his retirement from the saddle in 1950, Dempsey ‘confessed’ to a tabloid newspaper that he had, in fact, hidden Caughoo behind a haystack and rejoined the field on the second circuit, as McCann had alleged. However, in the absence of any haystacks at Aintree that day, it is easy to dismiss his later account as whimsical. Furthermore, in 1999, the ‘Irish Mirror’ claimed to have photographs in its possession that clearly showed Becher’s Brook – which is the sixth and twenty-second fence on the National Course – on two separate occasions, thereby disproving any allegations of skulduggery.

Will Presenting Percy be trained for the Cheltenham Gold Cup or the Grand National in 2021?

The winner of the Pertemps Network Final in 2017 and the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase in 2018, Presenting Percy appeared, at one stage of his career, a bona fide Cheltenham Gold Cup contender. Indeed, despite having raced just once, over hurdles, in the interim, he was sent off a well-backed 100/30 favourite for the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup. However, on that occasion, he was never travelling and trailed in eighth of nine finishers, beaten 33 lengths, behind Al Boum Photo. In his defence, he was subsequently found to be lame on his right hind leg.

In the 2020 renewal of the Gold Cup he was staying on in seventh place when falling at the second last and did not win again until November, 2020, by which time he had been transferred to Gordon Elliott from Patrick Kelly. That victory, in a four-runner Listed chase at Thurles may have proved something of a ‘false dawn’, because Presenting Percy was put firmly in his place when beaten the proverbial ‘country mile’ or 76 lengths, to be exact, on his return to Grade One company in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Interestingly, at the time of writing, Presenting Percy can be backed at 40/1 ante post for the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup, but just33/1 for the 2021 Grand National. Elliott has reportedly had the National in the back of his mind since acquiring the ten-year-old in October, 2020 and, as he rightly pointed out, Presenting Percy could be sent off at much shorter odds if he lines up at Aintree. His attitude may have been questioned in the past, but the son of Sir Percy is a classy individual, who is versatile ground-wise, stays at least 3 miles 5 furlongs, travels and jumps, so Elliott might just be onto something.

How many times has Tiger Roll won at the Cheltenham Festival?

At just under 16 hands high, Tiger Roll is small for a steeplechaser and was, in fact, originally bought by owner Michael O’Leary to win the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. However, Tiger Roll proved significantly better than anticipated, winning the Grade One Triumph Hurdle, on just his second start for his new connections, in 2014.

Subsequently, despite his diminutive size, fences have been the making of him. Of course, in April, 2019, he made history by becoming the first horse since Red Rum, in 1974, to win the Grand National two years running, but he also has three further successes at the Cheltenham Festival to his name. He won the National Hunt Chase in 2017 and the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase two years running, in 2018 and 2019, en route to victory in the Grand National.

Still only a nine-year-old, Tiger Roll takes the odd liberty with an obstacle but, although he did once unseat his rider in a novices’ chase at Galway, when bumped by a rival at the second-last fence, he has never fallen. So, while Michael O’Leary has said that Tiger Roll is ‘very unlikely’ to run in the Grand National in 2020, another win in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase – which would be his fifth at the Cheltenham Festival – looks within the realms of possibility.

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