HAUNTING new footage of Cheltenham Festival’s most controversial moment has surfaced eight years on.
Dubbed the ‘£50million fall’, legendary jockey Ruby Walsh’s unseating from Annie Power is still giving punters nightmares.
Action Images – ReutersThis was the £50million fall that turned out to be arguably the most controversial moment in Cheltenham Festival history[/caption]
New footage of jockey Walsh shows him standing motionless in the middle of the track as horses run past him
Conspiracies about what punters think happened – including the ‘shadow theory’ – abound to this day.
For those who were spared the pain and don’t know the context, Walsh’s fall from Annie Power in 2015 is arguably the defining moment of the Festival.
Bookies were running for their lives by the time the horse lined up 1-2 fav for the Mares’ Hurdle.
Irish trainer Willie Mullins and Walsh had already teamed up for three winners on the day.
The liabilities were racking up and up and up as punters needed Annie Power – the final leg of that infamous four-fold – to win.
She looked a good thing.
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Mullins is the best trainer and Walsh was the best jockey on the best horse.
Slick, electric over her hurdles, Annie Power was absolutely cruising turning in.
Commentator Ian Bartlett said ‘the four-timer is on’ as Walsh pressed go on Rich Ricci’s mare, who had been beaten just once in 12 previous races.
It looked all over… until Bartlett spoke those immortal words: “Annie Power at the last… is down! Annie Power is gone!”
Roars of celebration turned to gasps of horror as the 70,000 trackside punters and many, many more at home saw life-changing sums of money go up in smoke.
It proved a total one-off.
Annie Power never came close to defeat again – she won her final four races without ever being tested.
MOMENT OF MADNESS
Yet even now, for all his 2,500-plus winners, it’s that fall people still ask Walsh about.
No wonder, then, that new footage showing his reaction that day has reopened old wounds for many.
A previously unseen camera angle captures Walsh standing in the middle of the track.
Arms by his side, motionless as beaten horses run past him, you can imagine Walsh behind his goggles having a 1000-yard stare, trying to comprehend what had just happened.
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In the foreground is the hustle and bustle of shocked punters.
Walsh seems to stand still in time, alone with his thoughts after victory was so cruelly robbed from him.
For his part, Walsh is philosophical about what went down that day.
Speaking on the Sport TG4 documentary, he said: “She took off too early and didn’t get there, it’s as simple as that.”
But that fall, that moment, that gut-wrenching sense of what could have been is still so raw for so many.
Commenting on the clip online, one punter said: “That’s me having nightmares again tonight.”
Another wrote: “I still feel this pain.”
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A fellow punter said: “Still hurts today – the pain will never go away.”
While one comment read: “Never seen that shot of Ruby after the fall.”
If you’re wondering what really happened, perhaps Walsh’s old rival Davy Russell has the best answer.
He agrees with one theory that has prevailed over the years, that Annie Power got confused by the shadow falling before the final hurdle.
Speaking on the clip, he said: “I’m convinced the reason she did it was because of the shadow in front of the hurdle.
“I rode there the same day and I know there was one there – but Ruby never once blamed it.
“I never asked him afterwards, I don’t know what he’d say now – I bet he still wouldn’t blame the shadow.”
Well, what would he say now? Asked about it all over again, Walsh replied: “You can’t change what happened.”
He, and all the punters who backed him, know that all too well.
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