Racing: Stationary Spring stalls punters at the start

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The Independent Online
MORE trouble at the beginning of a race yesterday, but this time the starter was in the clear. The culprit was a horse, Heber Spring, who clearly did not realise that he was the punters' choice for a claiming race at Folkestone, dug in his toes and refused to come out of the stalls.

That action meant that punters instantly lost their cash on the 11-10 favourite as under Jockey Club rules - at present being reviewed - all bets on a horse coming under starters' orders in a Flat race are lost if he fails to take part. That means even if he drops dead in the stalls, as happened to one unfortunate horse last year.

On-course wagers of pounds 500 and pounds 600 were logged for Heber Spring and his trainer, Richard Hannon, promised that the three-year-old would not run from his yard again.

'It's bad enough that he was a short-priced favourite,' Hannon said. 'On occasions he has been a bit reluctant at home, but he's been no trouble on the track.'

With the favourite frozen, life was much easier for the Ron Hodges-trained Harry's Coming, the middle-leg of a 53-1 Willie Carson treble.

The horse that sparked the former champion's sequence was Hamdan Al Maktoum's Tabkir, who cost 250,000 guineas as a yearling but managed to beat just seven horses home in two runs last year.

At the other end of the sport, Buckski Echo, who failed to reach his reserve of 1,000 guineas at the Newmarket yearling sales, gave Buck Jones, the Guildford trainer, his first Flat winner for three years. Even a free horse fails to balance the economics of the sport, and Jones said: 'The fee to renew my licence, plus the registration of staff, and four runs out of Buckski Echo have so far cost me pounds 1,250.'

Jones keeps his 10-horse training operation afloat through income from a farm and riding school.

He clearly does not supplement his income through Tote betting. Buckski Echo was returned at 33-1, but produced a pounds 170.70 Tote dividend.