FOR a while yesterday afternoon, the odds were certainly stacked against North Yorkshire horse Bearskin in the 6.10 handicap at Redcar Racecourse.
The three-year-old gelding was due to run in the race, his first of the year, but mysteriously disappeared from his box when a stable lad nipped to the toilet.
His vanishing act was eventually explained by a bizarre case of mistaken identity - but not before he had been loaded into a wagon which then set off on a 400-mile trip to Devon.
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When the mix-up was discovered, the driver was stopped and Bearskin was returned to Redcar, where he went on to run a creditable race, finishing fifth in the field of 19, none the worse for his 25-minute adventure.
Bearskin, trained by Ann Duffield at Sun Hill Farm in Constable Burton, near Leyburn, had been confused with Kirkstall Abbey, a filly which ran in the 3.20 selling stakes.
The horse had been claimed by Somerset trainer Bill Turner, who is believed to have made arrangements for it to be transported to its new home with someone else at the course.
The stable girl who went to collect the horse's passport misheard the box number, mistaking 109 for 119.
She went to the wrong box and took Bearskin, leaving Kirkstall Abbey behind.
Mrs Duffield described yesterday's incident as "quite funny".
"It was just one of those things that can't be helped," she said. "It might have been awful if we had the favourite in a big race.
"The lad had just nipped to the gents to spend a penny, and when he came back the horse had gone.
"They live in Devon so it could have been a lot worse."
It is not the first time Bearskin has found himself in an awkward situation. Last year he jinked while being ridden out by Mrs Duffield's husband, Classic winning jockey, George, who suffered a broken leg in the fall.
Amy Fair, general manager of Redcar Racecourse, put yesterday's mix-up down to "human error".
She said: "I felt really sorry for the girl, she has just misheard the box number.
"The moral of the story is she will check the paperwork next time."