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Oct 24, 2014

Up the Backstretch: Strange circumstance changes race

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA ( - It was unlike anything most racing fans have ever seen at the track. The favorite in a major stakes race began acting strangely during warm-ups for no apparent reason.

Sunday's $1 million Canadian International at Woodbine had its usual meeting of top grass running horses from North America with two thoroughbreds coming in from Europe.

Getting the favorite's spot for the 1 1/2-mile turf race was British-bred Brown Panther at 2-1 in the morning line. Another British-bred horse, Hillstar, was posted as the 5-1 third pick among the 10 entered in the race.

The betting public kept Brown Panther in the favorite's role leading up to the start Sunday afternoon with Hillstar the second pick ahead of Big Blue Kitten from New York.

During the post parade Brown Panther, with regular jockey Richard Kingscote riding, was acting fractious forcing the jockey to dismount as a way of settling the 6-year-old down. Kingscote eventually remounted but the horse began to act extremely agitated approaching the starting gate.

"Just before the break, the horse got wound up and unfortunately he got me off," Kingscote said. "When I got back on, I tried to keep him relaxed and as soon as I let go he bolted."

Kingscote was in the saddle when Brown Panther bolted down the turf course. The jockey was hanging on without his feet in the stirrups. There was almost no way Kingscote could ably get his mount under control and return to start the race.

"There wasn't much I could do after that," Kingscote said. "He's never done that before. He sometimes dances about and gets on his toes, but he's never been that extreme."

Kingscote was tossed from the saddle on to the grass course but fortunately wasn't hurt. He walked off under his own power and appeared only slightly shaken up.

Brown Panther was quickly caught by the outriders and led away by one of his handlers.

"It's very disappointing," said Tom Dascombe, trainer of Brown Panther. "It wasn't our day today."

The absence of Brown Panther from the International allowed Hillstar to go off as the 6-5 favorite in the nine-horse field. The 4-year-old bided his time and surged to victory, giving jockey Ryan Moore his second straight win in the race and trainer Sir Michael Stoute his second International victory and first in 18 years.

"Coming here we thought we could beat him," Moore said about expecting to face Brown Panther. "He beat us at Chester but there's always a horse race. It was just very sad for the connections. You bring the horse all the way over here and unfortunately something like that happened. Fortunately the horse looks like he's okay though."

Go to a racetrack and you'll see something new every time.

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