2 OCTOBER 1976, Page 16


Leger dope

Jeffrey Bernard

I've just had lunch with a man who'd like to remain nameless. It's a temporary measure. Should you want to challenge the story he told me that I'm about to tell you, then he'll own up. Meanwhile, I'll just say that he's well known in racing circles, has sponsored an important race or two and has friends in well-manured places.

You might have read that connections of Campero, the French horse who ran like a pig in our St Leger, have vehemently denied that the horse was doped. My informant tells me otherwise. Why then should trainer Maurice Zilber deny the horse was stopped, since nowadays trainers aren't warned off for life in the event of one of their animals being got at, but merely fined? Well, for one thing the resulting inquiry and probable pettifogging fine are nothing more than a load of aggravation, but it's still a lot of aggro and therefore unwelcome.

Before the race, you might remember that two of the French challengers, Campero and Secret Man, had run against each other and finished within l lengths of each other on two occasions. Now the St Leger was run on I I September and ten days before that, Campero stood at 8-1 in most of the antepost lists and Secret Man at 9-1. On the day of the race, Campero opened at 7-1, and started at 9-1. Secret Man, on the other hand, opened at 8-1 and started at 15-2. In the event Crow won easily enough from Secret Man, but Campero was beaten by approximately thirty lengths. Raceform said, 'Campero looked well, prominent till the 8th furlong, beaten in straight.'

My informant went on to tell me that he was in the presence of Campero's connections and, although he admits that they're lousy losers on the other side of the Channel, he says that they were shocked, flabbergasted, amazed, choked and puzzled. The horse had been aimed at the St Leger for ages. They expected it to run really well. At least, Maurice Zither, the horse's trainer, did.

Now it so happens, and this is where there might be alittle crunch, that days after, when Zilber was talking to the owner, the said owner owned up to having had £30,000 to win on Campero. This is quite surprising and not a very small bet for a businessman to have on the first horse he'd ever owned. When you consider that the same owner, to the best of Zither's knowledge, had never even been on a racecourse before, then you realise that it was an enormous bet even bY old-fashioned standards.

When I was told this, I immediately asked my informant, 'How could he get such a bet on ?' since bookmakers, generally speaking, lost their nerve in the 'thirties. Well, he said,

he'd checked on that and all the big boys had admitted that it had been a particularly strong market for the St Leger. Lots of People shovelled it on this year.

Now it's odd that all doped horses this season—as far as one can tell, that is—have been doped to win and not to lose. How then did anyone get at Campero to stop it ? It must have been got at over here in England. Remembering that Jockey Club security has had well-publicised lapses, it is fairly safe to assume that someone got at the beast at Doncaster itself. When ? When the horse was at exercise. How? Easily. By putting something in the manger. How ? Easy again. It is a fact that any man carrying a bucket in one hand and preferably wearing a cloth cap Can get into anywhere where they keep valuable racehorses in this country.

If you don't believe that, I can tell you that I recently spent an undisturbed half-hour in a yard that houses what must be £5 million worth of horseflesh. One man looked at me and said, •Mornin' guvnor,' and another Just grinned at me and went on his way. I know, for a fact, that you can't do that on courses like Longchamp. I also know, for a fact, that you can wander fairly freely around stable courses in this country. So anyway, it's what's left that's so interesting. To me, who had Campero stopped ?

Obviously that's what's intriguing. I'll tell you another thing about bookmakers and, hoping you've worked out that £30,000 at 8-1 is a liability of £240,000, a very good friend of mine saw one of the biggest bookmakers in the country having lunch with one of the best jockeys in the count' y in one of the best restaurants in the country only the other day. I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't retain a couple to pull the odd favourite, but that's another matter.

Meanwhile, if there's a guard dog with teeth in Newmarket and a watchman who's not permanently sloshed in Chantilly, then I should have thought that Welsh Flame might well win the Cambridgeshire today and that Ivanjica might just win the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe tomorrow. At the time of writing I gather that old friend Crow might run in the Arc and again on hearsay, but from that expert Richard Baerlein, that Yves St Martin says it's still improving. If that's the case and if it runs, then I'll back it alongside Ivanjica. But remember, if you back losers and whether they've been doped or not, then there are sound-proof booths for moaners.