Racing: Dope test for Silca Blanka

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The Independent Online
STEWARDS AT Lingfield on Saturday decided against holding an inquiry into the remarkable improvement in form shown by the controversial 10-1 winner Silca Blanka.

A fortnight previously, over the same distance on the same track, the seven-year-old trailed in 10th of 16 runners, beaten over 14 lengths by the winner, Threadneedle.

Silca Blanca started the 4-1 favourite that day after being available at 16-1 in morning lists. The public gamble developed momentum after favourable mentions on Channel 4's Morning Line. Barry Dennis, a leading bookmaker at the Surrey track, said on the television programme that Silca Blanka would start favourite.

On Saturday, Silca Blanka - again ridden by Richard Perham - drifted out from 6-1 to 10-1. He started quickly from stall nine, soon held a prominent position, and eventually won by a neck from Love Academy. Threadneedle, 9lb worse off at the weights this time, was a head back in third place.

John Lovejoy, representing Silca Blanka's trainer, Tony Newcombe, was asked for an explanation by the course stewards. However, the stewards decided not to hold an inquiry, but did order that Silca Blanka to be routine tested.

Newcombe said yesterday he did not have a bet on his horse on Saturday. The trainer said: ``In the previous race, he was drawn 14 of the 16 runners, was then last away from the stalls, got bumped and buffeted at the back and couldn't never get a position.

``I didn't think he had a great chance yesterday either. He'll go next for the Lincoln Trial at Wolverhampton. He may also go for the Lincoln itself.''

Alan Smith, Silca Blanka's Devon-based owner, was also spoken to by the Lingfield stewards on Saturday. He explained how his horse had failed to gain a run after breaking slowly from a poor draw on 2 January.

``An outside stall is a big disadvantage over 7f at Lingfield,'' Smith said yesterday. On Saturday, Silca Blanka had again been drawn wide - the reason why Smith placed pounds 50 on him, not a big bet by his standards.