Horse Racing Can Be Bizarre

Horse Racing Can Be Bizarre
The oddities in horse racing are never-ending and every day can surely be an adventure when hanging around the ovals. Here are a few strange tales that are 100% true but might be unbelievable unless you're a horseplayer.

One Very Bad Day 

On July 19, 2016, jockey Chris Meehan was beyond excited, as he had a live mount in a hurdle race at Mercano Racecourse in Italy and thought he had a good shot at winning.

But his dream of having a winning day (and his face) was shattered when his horse went down trying to clear a fence. Meehan took a hoof to the old kisser in the ordeal and lay in the dirt unconscious with a broken nose and a huge gash on his chin. When track personnel got to him, it didn't look good.

"The starter came over to help me because I was on my back and choking on my own blood," Meehan told the Racing Post in a 2016 interview.

The consensus among the track people there was that he was messed up badly and needed an ambulance immediately. Meehan was probably relieved that the ambulance was on its way and thought his day couldn't possibly get any worse but he would be dead wrong.

"He (the starter) put me in the recovery position with my right leg straight out," he said. "The racecourse ambulance came up alongside us and reversed right over my leg! Then they stopped the ambulance on top of my leg, so I started screaming. My leg just broke straight away. Everyone around me had to push the ambulance off me."

Chris Meehan came away from the spill with a broken nose and a gash on his chin that required 27 stitches to close. But he also received a new and exciting broken leg and a dislocated ankle, courtesy of the top-notch ambulance crew that came to help him but ran him over instead.

"What makes it worse is that my father, brother, and auntie; are all ambulance people," Meehan said with a laugh.

"It's all so bizarre. You just couldn't make it up."

Meehan is 100% correct but what's even more bizarre, is four months after the accident, when he was just about healed up, he broke the same leg in a trampoline accident while training for his comeback. 

Horse Wins, Yet No One Had a Winning Ticket?

On December 17, 1934, at Charles Town Racecourse in West Virginia, a winning payout was made on the second-place finisher. This might not sound odd at first but this wasn't a case where the winner was disqualified but rather a very rare situation where no one had a bet on the first-place finisher.

Sweep Vessel crossed the wire 5-lengths to the good but there was a long delay in posting the results while the confused stewards decided what to do. They eventually awarded the victory to the second-place finisher, Tiny Miss. She was declared the official winner and the stewards ignored the 5-length score by Sweep Vessell, as far as the win payoff.

Sweep Vessell would have returned $1,318.50 for a single $2 win ticket, had there been one. 

The tote board showed Tiny Miss returning $6.80, $3.20, and $2.40, across the board. Sweep Vessel paid $105.80 and $7.60, while Quick Wit paid $2.60 to show.

After the race, the track posted signs trying to explain the weirdness and distribution of the pools but fans were confused and angry, as most had already thrown their tickets away.

There were reports of people storming the steward's office, fights breaking out, and of course, a lot of overturned garbage cans and knee-deep refuse from winning ticket seekers.

Jock Takes 28 Years to Win First Race, Then Immediately Retires

Anthony Knott was a jockey who rode on the southwest side of England for a little over 28 years. In all that time, this poor bastard never won a race. In fact, Knott never even hit the board, as his all-time career-best placing was a very distant fifth-place finish.

But in 2008, at Wincanton Racecourse, the rider found himself in very unfamiliar territory. He was actually in front of an entire field heading for home with only a furlong remaining and it looked like he would finally score that elusive first win.

But old losing habits are hard to break and even though Anthony Knott looked home for sure, he would still make it a challenge to get to the winner's circle.

The crowd at Wincanton was fully aware that Knott had never won a race and they stood, cheered, and clapped as horse and rider went by the stands in front by several lengths.

Knott acknowledged the congregation by waving back, standing up in the irons and pumping his fist.

But as he was celebrating, his antics enabled a horse to sneak up the rail and almost steal away his first victory.

"It was just pure instinct to stand up and give them a wave," Knott said in an interview after the race. "I wasn't thinking straight for a minute. Then I thought, 'O God, it's not over yet,' and I could hear another horse coming up behind me, so I sat back down and got on with it."

After 28 years of riding and finally bagging his first and only winner, Knott immediately retired from race riding right there and then.

"I just wanted to win one race," he said. "I've done that now, so I think I'll leave it at that." 

Big Balls on a Foggy Day

On January 11, 1990, on an extremely foggy day at Louisianna Downs, jockey Sylvester Carmouche was loaded into the gate for the one-mile, $2,500 claiming event aboard his mount Landing Officer.

The horse was 23/1 and sported a dismal racing record.

It's unclear whether the horse stumbled at the start or completely missed the break but the horse and rider were hopelessly left behind.

Apparently, Carmouche pulled up his horse, made a left turn through the infield, and waited for the other horses to come down the stretch.

Carmouche then rode his mount out in front of the pack and won by 24 lengths, only 1.2 seconds off the track record.

But there were immediate problems and concerns with the rider's romping win. Two out of the nine jocks in the race lodged objections and the remaining riders were questioned and not one of them remembers Carmouche ever passing them.

The stewards knew something wasn't right and called the track vet to look at Landing Officer.

He relayed that there wasn't a speck of mud on the horse, his bandages, or the jockey, and Landing Officer wasn't even breathing hard.

A review of the videotape was inconclusive as all you could see was a screen full of fog.

Carmouch pleaded his case but by a vote of 7 to 1, the Louisiana Racing Commission banned the cheating rider from all US racetracks for ten years. He was also arrested and charged with felony theft by fraud.

After a year in the court system, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail but it was later reduced to 10 and a $250 fine.

After 8-1/2 years, the ban was lifted and Sylvester Carmouche made a brief comeback in 1998, and according to Equibase his last his last ride was in 2010.

Yes, folks, everyday can be a true adventure at the racetrack.

By Peter Monaco

Photo: Freepik

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