Although batteries were widely used on Australian racetracks, it was rare that they were actually detected on race day. On 11 May 1955 at Morphettville, South Australian Jockey Club stewards were alerted to the poorly performed Thundering Legion shortening from 33/1 ($34) into 5/1 ($6) for the First Clarendon Transition Handicap.
Thundering Legion’s rider, Bill Attrill, had weighed out and returned to the riders’ quarters when the chief steward, Fred Everest, requested that updated betting information be provided, querying the shortness in the market of Thundering Legion. When it was confirmed that Thundering Legion was trading at 5/1, Mr Everest then went to the rider, seeking an explanation from him as to whether he was aware of the betting plunge.
Attrill advised the steward that he wasn’t that surprised, as he believed Thundering Legion had an each-way chance in the race. At this point the steward requested Attrill’s whip for examination and when it was handed over to him the steward got an unexpected shock. Electricity from a battery in the whip surged through the instrument to the top, where the stewards’ hand gripped it!
The stewards ordered that Attrill’s saddle be taken off the horse for further examination. They then substituted jockey Des Coleman as the new rider, and minutes later Thundering Legion was taken to front at the top of the straight, and won in a close finish.
Thundering Legion’s owner Mr H Irvine, who said that he raced purely for the sport, had also approached the stewards before the race, uneasy about the strange betting move for his runner, a horse that had no form.
Later that afternoon, Bill Attrill was disqualified for 10 years and, in a subsequent inquiry, the trainer, NW Conway, received a lifetime ban from the sport.