Noel Chance today expressed his dissatisfaction at the way his horse, Flame Creek, was ridden in the closing stages of the Bewleys Hotel December Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown on Monday.
Flame Creek finished third, beaten two and a quarter lengths behind Golden Cross, in the Grade One contest after being headed at the final flight by the winner.
And on the run-in Spirit Leader swept past Flame Creek to deprive Chance’s charge of second place.
There was some surprise among racegoers that the stewards did not choose to punish the third’s jockey Seamus Durack, who had appeared to stop riding near the finish.
However, the stewards were reported to have taken the view that Flame Creek did not lose second place as a result of the jockey’s actions.
Chance said: “I was very happy with the way the horse ran but I wasn’t happy with the jockey mistaking the winning post, which cost us €8,000.
“They ran such a quick time and in races like that when you stop riding they stop very quickly.
“I know the other horse beat us three-parts of a length but I’m not so sure (Spirit Leader would have been second).
“In any case you don’t want these things to happen. It doesn’t help.”
Flame Creek, having taken Monday’s race well, is now set for a return trip to Leopardstown on January 25 for the AIG Champion Hurdle.
“He came out of that race pretty OK,” Chance continued. “He just came back last night and he has eaten up and we are happy with him.
“He jumped well. He damn nearly put in a clear round and I knew the first time he put in a clear round and jumped properly he’d be there or thereabouts.
“That was the real Flame Creek on Monday.
“He’ll go back to Ireland and he’ll run in the Irish Champion and then he’ll run in our Champion.”
Prior to finishing fourth in the Tote Bula Hurdle earlier this month, Flame Creek had won his three starts over fences but his Lambourn trainer has ruled out a return to chasing this season for the seven-year-old.
“Going chasing has helped his jumping – there’s no doubt about that,” Chance said.
“He winged the second and jumped pretty well on the whole and he was nearly faultless.
“He was winning ‘Mickey Mouse’ races over fences but Monday was the first time he has run well and jumped well in a competitive Grade One.
“I was planning a chasing career but he didn’t have the aptitude for it. The last time he won he had something like 70lb in hand of the second and he really had to beat him when he should have won half the track.
“He certainly won’t be going chasing again this season.
“We always had it in the back of our mind that it might help him jump hurdles and it did help him jump hurdles.
“But I’m happy. He’s coming along nicely and someday he might win a big one but if he keeps running well and picking up bits of prize money he’ll pay for himself.”
Flame Creek is a 16-1 chance with Coral for the Smurfit Champion Hurdle.