Racing: Major up before stewards

HAVING looked set for a successful winter, Mister Major suffered a severe setback which resulted in his being dope-tested yesterday. The horse, that is.

The chestnut gelding, trained by Toby Balding, had shaped with tremendous promise on his seasonal reappearance at Kempton a fortnight ago. As a result he was a heavily-backed 6-5 favourite for the Vintage Veuve Clicquot Handicap Hurdle at Fontwell yesterday.

As with most gambles, however, the bookmakers were the only ones drinking the sponsors' product after Mister Major had trailed in a distant last of the four finishers. A dope test was ordered by the Fontwell stewards.

Nobody could offer an adequate explanation for the lacklustre performance of the one promoted to market leader by an expectant public.

Richard Guest was hard at work on Mister Major on the home turn but there was no response to the jockey's urgings as Absent Relative coasted to victory.

The only consolation for punters is that the pounds they lost are worth rather less than they used to be.