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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May, 2003, 09:25 GMT 10:25 UK
Sheep National fleeces bookies
Frank Keogh
On a long-running yarn

Sheep are naturally good jumpers
Sheep grow two teeth a year until they have eight
They prefer running water when they drink
Ewes usually give birth to twins

They were under farmers' orders - and they were off.

And it was Grey Face who proved he was king of the jumpers by ramming home his advantage to win by a short horn in the Sheep Grand National.

The bizarre race takes place every year at Hoo Farm in Telford, Shropshire.

Punters were reported to have fleeced local bookmakers who apparently priced up the leading contenders, and then went 20-1 baaaa.

Outsider Grey Face left the pundits with red races as he beat off the flying Biggles Bomber to win the 16-runner contest.

The event sounds too good to be ewe, but follows in a fine tradition of bizarre races, such as the Mascot Grand National at Huntingdon.

And the Shropshire contestants can be forgiven for feeling a little sheepish as they take on such daunting obstacles as Woolly Leap and Fleecers Brook.

Run over a furlong (about one-eighth of a mile or 200 metres), the big race takes place over a horseshoe-shaped course.

Maggot racing

The sheep, who all came to the farm as orphans, carry knitted jockeys on their backs.

Starting from a field, they race over the jumps towards the finish - a food trough.

Bleeting Tom was the race favourite with three-times winner Sylvester Stallone also well-fancied.

But 11-year-old Stallone looked rocky as age took its toll, and he finished well beaten.

The idea for the sheep showdown came in 1989 after a late-evening conversation about maggot racing.

Although Hoo Farm regularly hosts sheep racing, it is only the Grand National that sees such a large field of runners.

And it's a shear delight every year!

The BBC's Clare Lyons
"The event sprang from a wild idea one drunken evening"

Chaddy wins Mascot National
29 Sep 02  |  Football
Olympian helps Chaddy to glory
29 Sep 02  |  Funny Old Game
Prior feeling sheepish!
29 Jun 01  |  Funny Old Game


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