Francis' own theory is that Devon Loch ran into a kind of sound barrier. When they came over the last fence and the crowd saw that Devon Loch was going to win, the roar from the stands was a physical blast of sound. Near the finish it rose with such intensity that it may have made Devon Loch jump in the way a human being jumps involuntarily at any loud noise.
But Francis does not advance the theory very positively. The notation on the race in the annual reference book, Chase-form, merely reads:
"Devon Loch, 7th½ wy; 2nd 2nd C.T.; led 3 out; gng on whn slippd & stoppd cl hme," meaning Devon Loch was seventh at the halfway point, second at the second Canal Turn, took the lead at the third fence from the finish and was going on when he slipped and stopped. If you watch the films of the race in the BBC film library it seems as practical an explanation as any. Those two powerful hind legs gathered for a stride would wreak havoc if they slipped behind him. When you see the pictures of Francis groping around in the grass for his whip, you find yourself thinking of invisible barriers, rays, stuff out of science fiction, just the sort of thing to turn an imaginative person to writing mystery stories.
But walking around a racecourse with Dick Francis gives a different impression. His books are workmanlike mystery stories and make no pretense of being anything more. But they are rooted in hard-won realities—not merely every track, but every fence, hurdle and water jump occupies a concrete place in his mind. There is a latent poetry in them, compounded of love of racing, his feeling for it as an imperiled and misunderstood sport, his knowledge of horses and his own elemental kindliness and integrity. His literary ability is strictly controlled, but you can sense it, beneath the mechanics of the plot, like a horse being held back from going too fast at the wrong time. If Francis could still be riding, literature would never get more than a glimpse of him jumping a fence far in the distance. But on the other hand, if he keeps on writing and improving from book to book—and if he ever gives his imagination its head—Devon Loch may have made a greater contribution to sporting literature by stopping where he did than he could ever have made by winning.