It was the first race of the day at Catterick and the spectators were ready to watch the action.

The runners came down to the start, at peak fitness, groomed to perfection and ready for the off. They lined up – a horse, a unicorn, a donkey and a dairy cow – and after that, it was “carnage”.

The pantomime horse race in aid of St Theresa’s Hospice, Darlington, at Catterick yesterday (11 July) is in its third year and has become a favourite with spectators as well as those in the horse (or otherwise) suits.

Footage from Racing UK, which stepped in at the last minute to provide runners for the horse suit, shows the action, including Lookers Volkswagen’s Wonky Donkey, which while looking to be in strong contention for the win, inexplicably swerved left and hit the rails in spectacular fashion.

John Stabler of St Theresa’s told H&H winners the Heavy Brigade, in the cow suit, were from the Royal Dragoon Guards based at Catterick garrison, and defending their 2017 panto race title.

“It was a bit controversial last year as they had a camel costume, which was the only one to allow both runners to stand upright,” he said. “We thought that gave them an advantage so this year we banned the camel but they still won – it must be something to do with the Army training!”

Unicorn on the Cob, or marketing agency Purple Creative, finished second and #Professionals, the Racing UK runners, last of the three finishers, although their colleague Niall Hannity’s body-slam meant the horse suit fell after the finish line.

Mr Stabler said the racecourse has been working with St Theresa’s for 12 years and the panto race was first held to mark the hospice’s 30th anniversary.

“We got some local supporters and some teams, and three years later, we’re still doing it,” he said.

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“The reaction’s great; I think spectators love it and it’s a fixture now, it’s on the racecard. Our guests and the runners love it too; it’s a bit of fun.

“It got a bit chaotic this year towards the end; we couldn’t work out what Lookers were doing as they just went off into the railings but they loved it.”

Catterick racecourse general manager and clerk of the course Fiona Needham added: “It’s great to support a local charity and worthwhile cause and it’s a bit of fun.”