Racing: Error means Loki backers must lick their wounds: Round one to the bookies as a Lincoln hope loses out two days early but the Mary Reveley stable makes a seamless switch in codes

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The Independent Online
DAY ONE of the Flat turf season yesterday and situation normal as Mary Reveley continued her vein of form, Jack Berry produced a first-card winner and the bookmakers pulled columns of cash from the table before a single horse had broken sweat.

The unusual declaration time of 48 hours before the Lincoln, to accommodate today's consolation race, caught out three trainers who forgot to confirm their horses' participation.

The omission of the outsiders Cool Luke and Pay Homage will not damage many, but Loki's absence will hurt punters who backed him to 8-1 joint-favourite from 20-1. Bets struck on the trio before yesterday are lost.

Geoff Lewis, Loki's trainer, complained he had not been given sufficient notice, while David Pipe, the Jockey Club's spokesman, complained that the event's conditions had been in the Racing Calendar three times and each trainer had been sent a letter of explanation. The bookmakers were not complaining at all.

Their only moment of dissent came when Mellottie proved the sole winning favourite on the card in the Doncaster 2,000 Mile.

This victory was a poignant moment for the Reveley stable, who lost Mellottie's dam, Lottie Lehmann, their first ever winner, two weeks ago. 'She was in foal to Gods Solution but both she and the foal died,' Keith Reveley, the trainer's son, said. 'We will not forget her. She made us.'

Lottie Lehmann's son has done much to promote the Saltburn yard's profile since those early days and has now taken 10 races and is closing in on pounds 200,000 in win and place prize-money. The eight-year-old may double those earnings at a stroke next month when he goes for the Hong Kong International Cup at Sha Tin.

Mrs Reveley was in the comfort of her Cleveland farmhouse yesterday and will again not be venturing far from Groundhill when Mellottie runs in the colony. 'If she had been going she would have had to set off a month ago by boat,' Keith Reveley said. 'She's terrified of flying.'

Mellottie, in contrast, is a seasoned, compliant traveller. 'You could take him to the moon and back and it wouldn't bother him,' he said. Little has been left to chance, nevertheless, and when the horse arrives in Hong Kong there will be provisions for the whole excursion and possibly bottled water on the baggage carousel.

Mellottie's success, following Northern Graduate's win, completed a Reveley double, which sandwiched two other northern wins, for Brian Rothwell's Bandon Castle in the Brocklesby and Jack Berry's Amron, who routinely runs his best race of the season minutes after it has opened.

Less typical was the appearance of two jockeys new to British racing, Jamie Comber and Jeff Penza, who may benefit from Michael Roberts's contract with Sheikh Mohammed.

Comber is from Liverpool but has spent the last 10 years in the United States, compiling close to 500 winners along the way. The 30-year-old is riding work for Richard Hannon and hopes to get better opportunities from the champion trainer than Clancy's Express provided on his debut ride yesterday. The horse finished last.

Penza, 22, Australian born of Maltese parents, has nearly 200 winners to his name. He had his first turf ride here on the Clive Brittain-trained Alflora yesterday, finishing second to Mellottie and perplexing his first set of British stewards.

The officials called in Penza after the Australian had flicked his white stick at Alflora with the enthusiasm of a demented bandsman throughout the closing stages, but were forced to concede, after watching the head-on film, that the jockey had not touched his mount with most of these swishes.

Elsewhere the mood was of the pre-match kick-about. 'This is the warm- up,' Lanfranco Dettori said. 'We're trying to get fit and get used to the British style of racing again. By the time the Craven meeting comes, we should be back up to square one.'

(Photograph omitted)

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