Catlin's quick thinking avoids false start fiasco
Friday 11 January 2008
Four of the five jockeys who took part in the 2.40 at Southwell yesterday were each banned for seven days after an eventful running of the mile contest. And surely the title of the race will long remain in the memory of the quartet of miscreants, whose unwanted time off was imposed because they failed to stop after a false start had been signalled. It was the Great Family Holiday Deals @ Pontins.com Handicap.
The trouble started when Jord, ridden by 3lb-claimer Andrew Elliott, burst through the gate of his starting stall before it opened mechanically, gaining a flyer. Elliott, pressing home his advantage, kicked on into a clear lead, followed by Kirsty Milczarek, another apprentice, on the favourite Dado Mush, Pat Cosgrave on Hucking Heat and Paul Mulrennan on Rigat. Both the starter and the recall official stationed a furlong down the track signalled a false start with their bright yellow flags, but only Chris Catlin, on Rebellious Spirit at the back of the quintet, noticed and obeyed the order to pull up.
The others went on to complete the course and ride a finish, with Jord maintaining his lead to cross the line first. Catlin correctly took Rebellious Spirit, the outsider of the party, back to the stalls area.
The starter, equally correctly, technically withdrew the four horses who had disobeyed the recall flag and Rebellious Spirit claimed all the prize money on a walkover, cantering round the track and past the winning post to earn the easiest £3,800 of his life for happy owners Lucia Stockley and Ken Read. The circumstances are covered under Rule 28 (xii) of the British Horseracing Authority's guidelines. If all horses complete after a false start on the Flat, the race is declared void; if more than one pulls up and goes back, the contest is re-started; and if only one re-presents itself at the start, it walks over. For betting purposes, yesterday's race was declared a non-event, with all stakes refunded. However, some bookmaking firms did pay out on Rebellious Spirit's 10-1 last-show price, with other bets void, a rare no-lose situation for punters. For Elliott, Milczarek, Cosgrave and McLennan – who protested in vain they had not seen the recall flag because of its wide position on the track – came swift punishment from the local stewards, and for Catlin, praise for his alertness. "All credit to him," said Rebellious Spirit's trainer, Peter Hiatt. "He said he shouted to a couple of the others, but they didn't pull up. He was lucky that he was on the outside and in the best position to see the flag."
Yesterday had to count as a top day at the office for Catlin, who was lucky to survive – and the word is not used lightly – a crashing fall an hour earlier when his mount, Sir Joey, jinked violently and stumbled when leading the seven-furlong seller, slamming his rider to the ground into the path of his chasing rivals. The 25-year-old missed being kicked or trampled by a hair's breadth. The contest went to Her Name Is Rio, and here again some mischievous force seemed to be involved in nomenclature. The winning filly was a first success of the year for Alan Berry, who 24 hours earlier had learned that conspiracy charges against him had been dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service. The race was the Pack Your Smile For Pontin's Stakes.
Berry and his stable farrier had been accused of running a horse, knowing it was lame, and laying it to lose. "It's always nice to get a winner, but today it's even more apt," said the delighted trainer. "I had my first ever winner here, so in a way it's like starting all over again."
At Hereford high-class chaser Celestial Gold, running for the first time since winning at Aintree 21 months ago, was pulled up on his return to action, but left his connections happy.
The David Pipe-trained 10-year-old was sent off at 8-11 favourite for the hurdle, but, entirely unsurprisingly on rain-softened ground, ran out of puff after travelling comfortably for a long way. "That will have brought him on a lot," said Pipe, "He got very tired and Timmy [Murphy] looked after him. There will be bigger days for him yet."
After George Moore on Tuesday, racing lost another riding legend yesterday with the death at the age of 72 of Bobby Beasley, who won most major jump prizes. After taking the Gold Cup on Roddy Owen, Champion Hurdle on Another Flash and Grand National on Nicolaus Silver in successive years from 1959, Beasley succumbed to alcoholism, but rebuilt his career to win the 1974 Gold Cup on Captain Christy.
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