Press Association Clarcam made the most of a serious mistake from hot favourite Vautour to grab Grade One glory in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown. Vautour made a shuddering error that left him with his nose on the turf before being picked up by Townend, and Bryan Cooper sensibly took the initiative, sensing an upset was on the cards. Clarcam quickly opened up a break on the chasing pack and was clear rounding the home turn before winging the final fence to seal his wide-margin victory. Vautour, unable to recover from his mishap, dead-heated for second with Ted Veale. RaceBets cut Clarcam to 14-1 from 25-1 for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March. Winning trainer Gordon Elliott said: “It’s great for Bryan as this is the horse he broke his leg on at Cheltenham. I know Vautour made mistakes but my horse didn’t just win a length or two – he destroyed them. “We’ll look at coming back here for the (Irish) Arkle and see what happens then.” Elliott went on to complete a double as 13-2 shot Space Cadet landed the bumper under Jamie Codd. Fiscal Focus caused a major upset in the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle as he put the odds-on Kalkir in his place at odds of 33-1. Kalkir was unsurprisingly a warm order as the 4-7 favourite for the Grade Two, having made a smooth start to his jumping career in a Grade Three at Fairyhouse last month, propelling him towards the top of the Triumph Hurdle market. Vautour was a stunning winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at last season’s Cheltenham Festival and looked every inch a top-class chasing prospect when comfortably seeing off Clarcam on his debut over fences at Navan last month, so it was no surprise to see him sent off the 1-4 favourite to confirm his superiority. Clarcam (8-1), who had since opened his own chasing account, took the field along down the back straight, with Vautour shadowing him in the hands of Paul Townend – until the pivotal moment came five fences from home. The Mullins runner moved well for much of the journey, but Fiscal Focus was travelling even better as he led rounding the home turn under Mikey Fogarty and he skipped over the last to win by two lengths, with Kalkir unable to make an impression. The winner was making his jumping bow for Des McDonogh, having previously been trained by Jim Bolger on the Flat. McDonogh’s legendary hurdler Monksfield was actually beaten in the same race early in his brilliant career and the trainer hopes his latest winner could earn himself a trip to the Cheltenham Festival. The handler said: “It’s been a long time since Monksfield ran in this race. He probably had too much Christmas pudding and didn’t run too well. “I’ve not been to Cheltenham since 1987 and said I wouldn’t go back unless I had a runner. I’ll have to sit down and talk with Jim (Bolger) before we decide what to do. I’ve known Jim for many, many years. He’s a great friend and he’s been very good to me. “I haven’t seen the likes of Monksfield around us for a long time. I’d love to go back to Cheltenham. He jumped great for his first run over hurdles and has beaten one of the favourites for the Triumph Hurdle. I’m still in a bit of shock! “Good horses are easy to train and he’s come from a very good academy. He loves soft ground. He was prepared so well for me to take over and they did get Annie Power out of there, so they know how to do it. We’ve a lovely horse (Theophilus) tomorrow, too.” Alvisio Ville made a stunning Irish debut for the Mullins team in the Bewleys Hotel Maiden Hurdle. Third on his only previous start in a French bumper, the JP McManus-owned four-year-old was sent off a heavily supported 1-2 favourite for the opening contest of the four-day Christmas Festival. Never too far off the pace in the hands of Paul Townend, Alvisio Ville was still hard on the bridle rounding the home turn, while the majority of his rivals toiled. Townend gave his mount his head on the run to the final flight and he soon asserted, pinging the last to seal a most impressive five-and-a-half-length success. With the champion trainer at Kempton, his son Patrick said: “He showed there what he’s showing at home. He’s 17.2 hands and has a huge stride. As they were going faster he jumped better and we think he’s very, very good.” RaceBets quote Alvisio Ville at 14-1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, having gone 25-1 immediately after the race.
During his two-year tenure, Coetzee won just 11 of his 25 Tests in charge, with defeats to Italy, Wales and Ireland.Despite boasting the worst win ratio of any ‘Boks coach for 20 years, he refutes any responsibility and shifts the blame onto the SARU.South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper reports Coetzee sent a scathing letter to the governing body, accusing it of ill-practice.Coetzee met with CEO Jurie Roux on January 18 about what he thought was an upcoming performance review, but was told his time as Springboks coach was up.”Instead, the meeting was used as a platform to inform me of SARU’s decision to inter alia, terminate my contract of employment with immediate effect,” Coetzee writes in his letter.”You further informed me that a further aspect of decision is that my services will be terminated regardless of the outcome of the anticipated performance review, as contemplated by my employment contract.”Coetzee also alleges his sacking is to make way for SARU’s new director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, to take the helm.He believes a potential demotion, should he stay on board, would constitute unfair labour practice and infringe his right to equality.”And should I wish to remain in SARU’S employment, I will be reduced to a ceremonial coach, and further that, Johan Erasmus [“Rassie”] has already been employed to replace me and is already performing the duties of a Springbok coach.”Should I be reduced to the position of ceremonial coach I would have the fact in the indignity of reporting to Rassie.”Coetzee likens his perceived treatment by SA rugby to that of former outspoken and controversial coach Peter de Villiers.”I will not allow elements in SARU to wilfully destroy me and render me unemployable as was done to Peter De Villiers.”I was the most successful Super Rugby coach at the time of my appointment and was requested to return to Springbok rugby from Japan because my country needed me.”My treatment since my return as suggests that elements in SARU embarked on a deliberate attempt to undermine me from the word go and to create the public impression of incompetence on my part whilst wilfully obstructing my efforts to be successful.”