Thoroughbred `filly' was really a colt

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The Independent Online
IT COULD, with accuracy if not delicacy, be called a bit of a balls-up. A horse called Perigeux took part in the 7.25 race at Hamilton Park on Saturday evening instead of his stablemate, Royal Dream.

The episode was a case of mistaken identity, nothing more sinister.

But yesterday those closest to the horses, among 100 trained by Jack Berry at Cockerham, in Lancashire, were not only apologetic but also deeply embarrassed. For although the pair are, at a glance, similar looking - both bays, with a small white mark on their foreheads - there is one fairly important difference.

Perigeux, you see, is a colt and Royal Dream is a filly. And the question that is begged is how a collection of so-called experts at the Lanarkshire track could have failed to notice that a contestant in a race confined to the fair sex (the Glengoyne Single Highland Malt Fillies' Handicap, to be precise) was, in fact, hung like a ... er ... um ... horse.

Among those who failed to spot the mistake were the trainer's son, Alan, who was supervising the stable's runners, the joint owner, the retired trainer Gerry Blum, who helped saddle his colt, the jockey, John Carroll, course officials, the starter and even the paddockside pundits.

Perigeux duly finished last, which was no surprise, given that this was a two-year-old running in error against three-year-olds. It was only after the race, when Perigeux returned with his tail - and more besides - between his legs, that Alan Berry realised the error of his ways.

"The two horses look very similar and it was only after the race that I spotted the difference," he said.

Berry senior's wife, Jo, said yesterday: "We are so sorry. The lad with the horse brought him from the racecourse stables to the saddling boxes rather late and Alan and Gerry just shoved the tack on quickly. It was Alan himself who informed the stewards what had happened. And perhaps it explains why the horse was unusually uppity down at the start, as a colt surrounded by all those fillies. Never mind Royal Dream, it's just a bad dream. It makes us all look like incompetent amateurs."

Although wrong horses have, on occasion, been sent out to race in the past, it is thought this is the first time a colt has been mistaken for a filly or vice versa.

The big bookmaking firms have agreed to refund bets to the punters who backed the so-called Royal Dream, the 7-2 second favourite for the six- furlong contest, but those on-course were not so lucky. The matter has been referred to the Jockey Club, which will hold an inquiry and doubtless levy a fine in due course.