Racing: Club may meet a wall of silence

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The Independent Online
Notable Basils, especially when it comes to flapping, are usually restricted to Lambourn and Torquay, but the village of Wellingore in Lincolnshire provided another yesterday.

Basil Richmond, the small-time trainer, was swiftly in touch with the Jockey Club from his yard after allegations that he had trained a horse to victory under Rules that had made its name on the unlicensed flapping fields of Scotland.

The sleuths of Portman Square are to investigate reports that Pretty Average, who won a ladies' selling handicap at Thirsk last month, was not just Pretty Average, but also Short And Sweet, the front-running leading light on the flapping circuit in Border country. The Jockey Club detectives will doubtlessly be impressed by the information that Pretty Average made all to win her race.

Before yesterday, the best horse Richmond had trained seemed to be Supreme Vista. It may be that he had another at Hall Stables with more victories to her name without even knowing. Ignorance was the theme of the message when the 59-year-old contacted racing's masters.

"I don't know anything about her flapping and if she has been then I've been duped," Richmond said. "All this about flapping is news to me and is obviously something I don't want to be associated with.''

The trainer will have to produce more than this. "We had a conversation with Mr Richmond this morning and we certainly wish to speak to him again, in person, in the future," John Maxse, of the Jockey Club, said.

Upturned palms under questioning were also available from Tommy Craig, the former trainer who supervised Pretty Average's two-year-old career before she left his Dunbar stable. "I haven't heard a word about her since she left the yard," he said. "I think she went back Lanarkshire way with her owner, but I don't remember much about her. I wasn't surprised to see her win because I thought she was capable of winning a race. But I did wonder where she'd been all that time.''

Among the questions (presumably) that will be directed at Richmond, is why his horse was backed down to 20-1 from an opening 50-1 at Thirsk. The good news for him is that allegations of this kind rarely come to anything, and there will be an offence only if connections were aware of the mare's previous history. "Knowing about it is important," David Pipe, of the Jockey Club, said. "It may be that the horse was bought with its passport and they never knew about it flapping.

"There have been allegations of flapping in the past but I can't remember a case where it has been proven - that people have known about it. Obviously, if someone knew a horse had been flapping and then brought it back to race it's a very serious offence.''

The horse called Short And Sweet last ran officially at the beginning of July when capturing a six-furlong flapping event at Hawick. If investigators from Portman Square plan to travel to a bed and breakfast in the Borders it seems they will get the coldest room and a similar reception.

This form of racing has been organised in this Scottish town since the 16th century. Those who promote the meetings (attracting four-figure crowds) are suspicious of both those over the border and men at the helm of a different code.

Les Dodds, of the Hawick Horseracing Association, did not suggest the bunting was being prepared when he admitted that his body would not necessarily co-operate with any inquiry. "They refuse to recognise us in any way," he said yesterday, "so I don't think we will be helping them at all.''