Paul Townend has moved to explain his bizarre last-fence manoeuvre on Al Boum Photo in Tuesday’s Growise Novice Chase at Punchestown that cost him a 21-day ban by confirming he thought he heard a call and that the fence was being bypassed.
In darting to his right on Willie Mullins’ charge just before the fence when in front and seemingly with the Grade 1 contest at his mercy, Townend also took Finian’s Oscar out of the race.
The rider ended up on the floor when Al Boum Photo crashed through the wing, leaving the way clear for the Gordon Elliott-trained The Storyteller to win.
None of the other riders around Townend at the time has reported hearing a call, but he told the Racing Post on Wednesday: “I thought I heard a shout and that the last fence was being bypassed. 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 was banned for dangerous riding and also forfeited his riding fee, but Robbie Power, the principal sufferer on Finian’s Oscar, is viewing the incident as “just human error” and claimed on Wednesday there are no hard feelings between he and Townend.
Power said on Twitter: “It’s taken me a few hours to calm down from that very unfortunate incident at Punchestown with Paul Townend. Nobody feels worse than him, just human error #nohardfeelings #brilliantjockey.”
Power added on his BoyleSports blog on Wednesday: “For some reason Paul thought we were bypassing the final fence and he’s made the manoeuvre. He’s just had a brain freeze. There are no issues with the track, it’s just one of those unfortunate incidents and we need to put it all behind us.
“Paul is a top-class jockey and he may take some picking up this morning, but he’s a thorough professional and hopefully he’ll be back to riding Grade 1 winners this week.”
Finian’s Oscar was denied the chance to add his Grade 1 win at Aintree, and Power said: “He definitely would have put it up to Al Boum Photo, there’s no doubt about it.
“He’d made a slight mistake at the second-last but he was just starting to rally. I knew by the way he came home at Aintree he would have stayed galloping and he definitely would have gone close.”
The Storyteller was the lucky beneficiary of the bizarre incident and led home a 1-2-3-5 for Gordon Elliott.
Speaking about the incident for the first time on Wednesday, Al Boum Photo’s trainer Willie Mullins said: “It was most unfortunate, but these things happen in sport. Nobody died. We’ll put it behind us now and move on.”
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board was criticised for not providing any significant detail following the inquiry on Tuesday evening. However, on Wednesday morning the regulator published a secondary report.
“In his evidence, 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,” it read.
“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.”
The IHRB report added that Power stated: “He said that he was coming to win his race before the last and was carried out. He described the incident as unfortunate and said he had no idea why it happened.
“He said he was not aware of any reason which would indicate that the fence was being bypassed.”