Farcical photo finishes, a racial slur, mass DQs, Defi Du Seuil and Pinatubo… racing's biggest howlers of 2020

WHAT a whirlwind year it’s been for racing.

There’s been some highs, plenty of drama and of course some serious lows. Who makes the shortlist no one wants to be on?


This might be a bit harsh, but in my book it’s fair.

Every man and his dog labelled Pinatubo the ‘next big thing’ after his juvenile season. He was rated higher than Frankel after their first seasons to be fair.

And it meant he went off a red-hot 5-6 favourite for the 2000 Guineas as punters expected him to do the business before a possible tilt at the Derby and further afield.

But that was never the case, he was cosily beaten into third by Kameko.

Onto Royal Ascot and his backers kept the faith. He was sent off favourite in the St James’s Palace, and while he ran better, he was beaten once more.

It was recovery mission time and to his credit he won a Group 1 over in France on his next run – albeit in a weak race for the grade.

But just as the team got their hopes up again, he was turned over at short odds back in France by Persian King.

Trainer Charlie Appleby announced a few weeks later that his star had suffered an injury and he’d be retired to stud.

Labelling Pinatubo a ‘flop’ would be unfair and he was as good a two-year-old as the sport has had in the modern era.

But when you start the season as the next Frankel you need to deliver, and Pinatubo never reached close to those heights.

Tiger Roll

Covid ruined a lot of things in 2020, and it has probably ruined the chances of us potentially witnessing history in the Grand National.

Tiger Roll had been set to try and go level with the late, great Red Rum at Aintree in April.

Had he won, his three on the spin would have topped the great horse too.

But 2020 was a torrid time for Gordon Elliott’s star – and his jockey Davy Russell, who needed bolts drilled into his head after a horror fall.

He was stuffed by Easysland at the Cheltenham Festival and returned this season with a defeat on the Flat.

That was supposed to put him right but his next run was even worse as he was pulled-up, never going a yard over the Cross Country course.

From trying to better the legendary Red Rum to a possible retirement. How things can change in the world of racing…


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English King

It was a rough old year for English King.

After shooting to Derby favouritism following his devastating win in the Lingfield Trial, things quickly went south.

The Derby itself didn’t go to plan. He could only finish fifth and that was about as good as things got.

He was well beaten favourite at Glorious Goodwood when dropped severely in class.

Connections then re-routed him to France for another shot at the big time.

But once again he failed to get his head in front as he trailed eight lengths behind Mogul.

The English King bubble had burst in a matter of months.

Even his owner gave up and he was sent to auction where an Aussie paid £900,000.

G’day to you English King.

The Stewards

It’s been a rough time for our beloved stewards – those tasked with keeping jockeys, trainers and the like in check on course.

But like London buses, after you wait a while for a disaster, they all come at once.

So take a weekend in the middle of November.

It started on the Thursday, as poor young jockey Alexander Thorne’s afternoon went from high to low in a heartbeat.

After riding a winner live on ITV, post-interview on the box he forgot to weigh out and his horse was quickly disqualified.

The next episode of drama came at Cheltenham and left punters scratching their heads even harder.

A photo finish was needed for the last race on the card, and despite Ishkhara Lady looking like she edged it, the stewards decided the race was a dead-heat.

Excuses were made – it was too dark the main one – and for a supposed professional sport as part of a multi-million pound industry it was all a bit embarrassing.

But that was it, surely? Wrong.

The best was yet to come.

‘The Fontwell Fiasco’ was just village. Seven horses skipped a hurdle mid-race after a member of groundstaff appeared to wave the field around the obstacle.

Only one horse, Dharma Rain, jumped it. And lo-and-behold the hurdle was meant to be jumped. It was pure chaos and how can jockeys be expected to make a split-second decision like that whilst riding at 30mph in a competitive race?

All in all it meant the horse that finished second last was actually declared the winner.

Defi Du Seuil

The year 2020 quickly went sour for Philip Hobbs’ star Defi Du Seuil.

What started with such promise and a memorable Clarence House win, quickly went wrong.

Everything looked perfect on paper pre-Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

His two main rivals Altior and Chacun Pour Soi were dramatically withdrawn and he looked to have the race at his mercy.

But races aren’t run on paper and he put in a stinker, never travelling a yard, despite being the 2-5 favourite with punters.

We then didn’t see Defi until the Shloer Chase in November at Cheltenham.

But once more he ran a stinker despite being the red-hot 6-5 jolly.

These things happen, horses struggle with niggles and setbacks, they’re not machines.

Let’s hope in 2021 we see the horse back to his best.

Horse named after racial slur

Finally, but by no means least, we have to give special mention to whoever let a horse run under the name 'Jungle Bunny'.

Fans were left gobsmacked when they saw the offensive term on the racecard.

The David Evans-trained three-year-old ran at Wolverhampton earlier this month.

After loads of complaints to the British Horseracing Authority, the horse's name was changed to Jungle Bells and it owners apologised, claiming the name had been nothing but an 'innocent mistake'.


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