Dramatic Royal Ascot races Ile de Chypre – 1988 King George V Handicap

Not only in the same year as Royal Gait’s controversial disqualification, but on the very same day, came one of the most unusual finishes in Royal Ascot history. The maiden Ile De Chypre was all set to make all and land the concluding handicap.

Jockey Greville Starkey had attempted to make all and having kicked for home off the home bend, Ile de Chypre was holding off allcomers and had the race won a furlong out. There was a slight warning of what was about to happen as the horse started to wander in front, but he retained his momentum and was holding a 2l advantage, when all of a sudden he whipped around to his left leaving Starkey no choice but to exit out the side door. Young claimer Tony Culhane could not believe his luck as Thethingaboutitis, booked for second place, was suddenly home and hosed for a Royal Ascot victory.

Whilst punters of Ile de Chypre will have been cursing their luck, the amazing ending to the contest was just put down to one of those things for the next eighteen months. That was until an apparently unrelated court case in October 1989 at Southwark Crown Court.

Three men were on trial for drugs offences, and in his evidence one of the defendants claimed to have used a set of binoculars adapted to be able to emit a sound frequency above the level of human hearing, but which would be startling to that of a racehorse. It was that that supposedly spooked Ile De Chypre into his indiscretion. This was a trial to see if the binoculars worked and could then be used in future to try and nobble a favourite about to win a race.

You would have thought though that the best place to trial it would have been anywhere but a crowded venue and why was Ile de Chypre affected and not the horses following immediately behind. It has never been proven one way or another if the special binoculars were the cause of the incident.

So Ile de Chypre remained a maiden, but he would go onto record his first win at Newbury in August and then landed a very valuable handicap at the same venue the following month. 1989 however was to prove a stellar year for the colt. He won a Group 2 at the Curragh in the spring, before only narrowly failing to land the Coronation Cup at Epsom. He did get to win a Group 1 though when scoring in the International Stakes at York, upstaging his more lauded stablemate Cacoethes.

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