It was the 23rd September 1948. The dust from World War 2 was still settling, and people were learning how to enjoy themselves again.
Horse racing played a part in this – a day at the races was incredibly popular back then – but anyone who backed Royal Forest in the Clarence House Stakes at Ascot that day would not have been enjoying themselves much.
At odds of 1/25 the horse was barely worth backing anyway unless you had a lot of cash to lay down, but people did, to their folly.
Despite a strong run, Royal Forest was pipped to the post by half a length after 33/1 no hoper Burpham nudged past, making the horse the shortest price loser British racing had ever seen.
This is a record that would stay unmatched for almost 75 years, until September 2023, when a horse called Doom failed to win despite also being the 1/25 favourite.
Royal Forest would go on to be a losing favourite at The Derby a year later in 1949, albeit not at the same short odds.
Interestingly, Royal Forest was ridden by a jockey called Gordon Richards, who you may have heard of.
Richards also rode another short price loser a year earlier, Glendower, who was beaten at odds of 1/20 in 1947 after unseating Richards.
Despite apparently having a knack from scuppering the chances or hot favourites, Richards was an excellent jockey who was the British Flat Racing Champion 26 times between 1930 and 1953, and remains the only flat jockey to be knighted.
What’s more, his total of 4,870 winners is still a record in British racing.