'A genuine mistake': Paul Townend apologises for 'panicked' final-fence collision

By Stephen Barry

Update 11.44am: Paul Townend has explained his reasons for attempting to bypass the final fence of the Grade 1 Growise Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown.

His manoeurve caused his mount Al Boum Photo to crash out through the railings and carried out Robbie Power and Finian's Oscar.

Townend has said he thought he heard a shout telling him to avoid the final fence, although there was none of the formal signs on the fence to indicate it wasn't to be jumped.

"I thought I heard a shout and that the last fence was being bypassed," the rider told the Racing Post.

"It was a split-second reaction. I wish to apologise to connections and to punters.

"I’d like to leave this behind me and move on with today’s rides."

Townend's 21-day ban for dangerous riding doesn't come into effect for two weeks, meaning he is clear to ride Novice Hurdle favourite Next Destination and Killultagh Vic in the Punchestown Gold Cup today.

Paul Townsend, onboard Al Boum Photo, forces Robbie Power, onboard Finian's Oscar, off the track as they approach the last jump. Photo: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board released Townend's evidence to a stewards' enquiry this morning.

It read: "Paul Townend said that he was riding with his head down between the last two fences and heard roaring on his left which caught his attention.

"He thought he had to bypass the fence but didn’t know which side to bypass on.

"He panicked and commenced his move to bypass the fence on the right side but then realised there was nothing on the fence to indicate a bypass was needed and tried to correct his actions but it was too late.

"He accepted in hindsight that there were no bypass procedures in place. He said he made a genuine mistake and apologised for what occurred."

Original story (10.50am): 'No hard feelings': Robbie Power forgives Paul Townend for final-fence 'brain freeze'

Robbie Power has forgiven fellow jockey Paul Townend for the last-fence run-out which cost both a shot at the Grade 1 Growise Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown.

In one of the most dramatic imaginable finishes to a race, favourite Monalee fell at the second-last, bringing down Invitation Only with him.

That left Al Boum Photo at the front, but Townend checked over his shoulder and suddenly veered to the right in an apparent attempt to bypass the final fence. That manoeuvre forced Power's Finian's Oscar off course, while Townend's mount was sent through the rails and the jockey flying into the air.

It all left Davy Russell and 16-1 shot The Storyteller clear to scoop the €59,000 top prize. What's more, it completed a 1-2-3 clean sweep for Gordon Elliott, reestablishing a trainers' championship lead of more than €400,000 over Willie Mullins.

"I took a quick look up and saw nothing, and I suppose Paul must have spotted something," said Russell.

"I was concentrating on my fellow and thought it was great that he was going to finish a career-best in third, and then that happened."

Townend was subsequently handed a 21-day ban for dangerous riding.

Having calmed down following the drama, Power, who was cost a shot at victory, tweeted that he had "no hard feelings" towards Townend.

"It's taken me a few hours to calm down from that very unfortunate incident yesterday @punchestownrace with Paul Townend," wrote Power.

"Nobody feels worse than him, just human error. #nohardfeelings #brillliantjockey".

He added on his BoyleSports blog: "For some reason Paul thought that we were bypassing the last fence so he made a manoeuvre to bypass. He just got a brain freeze. It was a case of human error. He is a top class jockey and will put it behind him and move on hopefully."

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