Racing: Evans causes a stir with Panther's double-take

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The Independent Online
The RSPCA has criticised the plan by the trainer David Evans to run a horse called Panther in two races at Wolverhampton this afternoon. John Cobb considers whether the welfare organisation is being over-sensitive.

It is a mess and one that will draw attention to racing in a way that the sport's rulers could well do without, but is there any great need to fret about the welfare of Panther, a gelding who is declared to run in two races at Wolverhampton today?

The Jockey Club's concern yesterday was whether the horse's trainer, David Evans, was about to break any rules, but it seems that he will be in trouble only if he does not fulfil his commitments to run the horse rather than if he does.

The Club's spokeswoman, Julia Cook, said: "If he runs the horse in both races there is no rule to stop him. But if he doesn't run in both he will be fined, under rule 144 (ii)."

The RSPCA's worries did not concern the Jockey Club's rules and sub-sections. "We think it is totally unrealistic to expect a horse to run in two races on the same day and, in effect, almost within an hour," its spokeswoman, Justine Pannett, said.

"We think the question is not `am I going to get fined?' but about the horse's welfare."

Evans has entered the seven-year-old Panther in the 1.55 race and the 3.00 race and is keen to let him take his chance in both. He admits that he had expected the gelding to be eliminated from the second race, the Dudley Handicap, so he also declared him yesterday morning for the Dunston Claiming Stakes.

When the two races were heavily oversubscribed both were divided at the overnight stage, leaving Panther in the field for each contest.

"He will probably run in both," Evans said. "I hadn't planned it this way but we declared him twice to get a run and he will run in the claimer and then we will see how he is.

"He is a lazy horse and we will get fined if we take him out of one of the races so he will probably run in both."

Panther's laziness is probably the key to whether or not he will suffer from the experience. If he has had enough after the first race then there is very little that his jockey, Danny Wright, will be able to do to persuade him to exert himself. The rules that insist that the horse must run may be strict, but the regulations concerning use of the whip are even tighter.

Then there is the distances of the races contested, six furlongs and then seven furlongs. Both fall within the sprinting category and the total distance that Panther will cover is around only about half the journey that the jumpers will travel in the second race at Ascot.

Panther is no stranger to hard work having run 85 times in a career which started in 1992 and in which he has won seven races. None of those wins have come this season, however, and his slowness is probably as much to do with his unwillingness to exert as it is to his lack of ability.

Running more than once in a day used to be a common occurrence. Until the Jockey Club rules were altered in 1930, the owner of a horse which had dead-heated could challenge the other to a run-off. If the challenge was turned down then the instigator of the challenge took all the prize.

The last dead-heat to be run-off was in a selling handicap at Newbury in June, 1930.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

NAP: Ela Agapi Mou

(Ascot 3.40)

NB: Aller Moor

(Ascot 1.35)

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