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By Martin Kelly, PA Sport. Last Updated: 19/02/09 12:13pm
Kauto Star - mistake at the last.
Snoopy Loopy provided Haverfordwest trainer Peter Bowen with his finest hour as former Gold Cup hero Kauto Star failed to complete in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Twelve months ago Sam Thomas stepped up to the plate aboard the 2007 blue riband winner and enjoyed a dream result as Paul Nicholls' class-laden eight-year-old secured yet another Grade One success.
The recent Down Royal winner was brought into contention by Thomas straightening up for the final four fences on this occasion, and the 2-5 favourite went to play his hand at the following open ditch.
However, he hit the wing of the fence and was then ridden along to maintain his momentum having dropped back in the field.
The dual King George victor and winner of this race for the last two years gathered himself up though, and came with another challenge on front-running Tamarinbleu at the final fence.
He jumped upsides but stumbled on landing, depositing Thomas on the ground and extinguishing any hope of success.
Kauto Star's departure should have left David Pipe's Tamarinbleu clear but 33-1 outsider Snoopy Loopy stayed on best of all to deny him by a half length.
Nicholls said: "I was never really happy with him today and he was never really travelling.
"He was on the inside and not really happy, whereas at Down Royal he had a lot more room and was tanking along.
"He jumped into the wing at the third-last when Sam asked him for a big one. He still might have won - who knows?
"It was a muddling sort of race and he has got beat, but he was always going to get beat one day and Kempton on King George day is another race.
"He has had ups and down before and has bounced back and that is racing. They are racehorses and can't be at their very, very best every single day.
"Sam won the race on him last year and these things happen. He has got beat today but it is onwards and upwards and tomorrow is another day."
Thomas added: "He was just getting on terms when it happened.
"The mistake at the third-last didn't stop him but it certainly didn't help and I do think he would have won."
Sky Bet eased Kauto Star out to 6-4 for the Boxing Day showpiece, with Gold Cup sponsors totesport pushing him out to 4s from 5-2 for the Cheltenham highlight.
Kauto Star's eclipse somewhat overshadowed a wonderful success for the hard-working Bowen, whose rank outsider was running around Sedgefield 12 months ago, and traded at 209-1 in-running on Betfair.
Bowen said: "He was rated 108 this time last year - and I thought the handicapper had been hard on him!
"Since then he has done nothing but improve and improve.
"He has had a lot of problems so he is lightly raced and all he has needed is time.
"I can't believe this. It is the biggest race we have ever won and it is just amazing.
"He'll have an entry in the Gold Cup and we'll see where we go from there, but the Order Of Merit is the aim."
The 10-year-old Summer Plate winner now has a 10-point lead in the Order of Merit competition.
Winning rider Seamus Durack added: "I expected him to improve for his first two starts but it was a big leap up to think he could finish in front of Kauto Star and Exotic Dancer.
"He was keen early and I knew there was the possibility he could tie up close to the line.
"I let the horse travel where he was comfortable and those in front of him got tired close home - its unbelievable."
Pipe said of the Tom O'Brien-ridden runner-up: "That is probably another career best from him.
"We thought Ollie Magern might make the running but once they said they weren't going to, I told Tom to go his own pace and lead them a merry dance.
"I suppose we will have to think about the King George now."
Third across the line was last year's runner-up Exotic Dancer who, having finished in arrears of Kauto Star on seven occasions, failed to capitalise on his rival's exit.
Barry Simpson, racing manager to owner Sir Robert Ogden, said: "You would have to be a little disappointed with that.
"The pace wasn't satisfactory for him, he didn't travel and carried his head in the air. It just did not slot into place for him today.
"Voy Por Ustedes is going for the King George so we might look at the Lexus Chase in Ireland over Christmas for him."