The history of British horse racing is awash with stories of horses that managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but – with the possible exception of Devon Loch in the Grand National in 1956 – perhaps none more bizarre than Ile De Chypre in the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot in 1988.
Bred and owned by Athos Christodoulou and trained by Guy Harwood at Pulborough, West Sussex, Ile De Chypre was, at the time, an unexposed three-year-old maiden who had, nonetheless, run with sufficient promise on his reappearance to be sent off second favourite for the competitive handicap. Ridden by stable jockey Greville Starkey, Ile De Chypre looked certain to justify market support when going clear in the closing stages, but inexplicably veered badly left in the last hundred yards or so, unseating Starkey as he did so.
The details of the incident were not revealed until a year later, when car dealer James Laming to Southwark Crown Court that he had fired an ultrasonic ‘stun gun’, disguised as a pair of binoculars, at Ile De Chypre. Accused of conspiracy to supply cocaine and money laundering, Laming claimed that money with traces of cocaine found in his car was on-course winnings, but he was less than forthcoming regarding other details of his alleged coup.