“Sometimes in racing you witness something that is beyond your comprehension.” That was the immediate reaction of the summarisers on Channel 4 Racing after 66/1 shot Scatter Dice produced a remarkable performance to win the Cesarewitch at Newmarket.
It was an astonishing performance in many ways. Mark Johnston’s filly wasn’t the complete outsider as the field of 33 runners went into the stalls. A second after they left, she certainly was, as she missed the break and gave all the others a head start of the best part of a dozen lengths. True, she had over 2 miles to make up the ground, but how often do you see a horse use up its energy catching up its rivals, only to fall away when the pace quickens towards the end of the race. After 3 furlongs of the race she had become just one of the backmarkers.
Nonetheless, she still had 32 horses to overtake. Scatter Dice was drawn in the middle of the field. De Sousa sent her to the inside, and with half a mile to go she was still there, surrounded by other horses. Here the jockey began to manoeuvre out, and by the 2-furlong pole, when she had bested most of her rivals, Scatter Dice was on closer to the opposite side of the track.
She took the lead inside the final furlong, running on gamely to win by a growing three lengths. No wonder that jockey Sylvestre De Sousa had a wide grin on his face as he came back to the parade ring. He said, “It was probably a bigger shock to me than anybody else. It's unbelievable. She's such a trier. She a visor on for the first time but she was just a bit sleepy (in the stalls). She's done really well.”
Scatter Dice has had a busy season, having started in April in Epsom’s Great Metropolitan Handicap. After finishing fourth in that race she had run a further fourteen times without success before yesterday. Considering that the shortest of those races was 11 furlongs, few horses can have raced more miles than Scatter Dice this season.
Scatter Dice was wearing a visor for the first and probably only time on a racecourse, as she is due to be retired at the end of the season. That may have been part of the problem she had, said trainer Mark Johnston. “He (De Sousa) felt that she was not facing the visor and he could not get her to go down (to the start). He needed to go down with another horse in the end. But maybe that's helped.”
Whatever it was that made the difference, everything fell into place in the four minutes of the race, and the joint most valuable handicap prize of the season turned into a bookies benefit.