Punters at Larkhill point-to-point (6 January) witnessed a loud bang and flash of light as one of the runners trod on an army training pyrotechinic during the 1st Division of the Men’s Open Race.

The runners had just cleared the final fence of the first circuit when the pyrotechnic went off. Although there was speculation that it was an unexploded shell, the puff of chalky smoke confirmed it was in fact a harmless device used to simulate a battle scenario.

Photographs of the incident show that it could have been Back Nine (horse number 1) who triggered the pyrotechnic. “There was a big bang,” said Christopher Flux who was watching the race. “It was a shock, but no horses were injured and the race carried on.”

Major Shaw who organised the point-to-point said: “It was no worse than a big firework with a puff of smoke. The pyrotechnics are used by soldiers when training and are designed to give a flash of light to simulate a battle scenario.”

But how the device came to be on the racecourse is still a mystery. Although Larkhill is used for army training, no military exercise takes place on the racecourse.

“No one knows how the pyrotechnic dropped onto the racecourse,” Major Shaw continued. “The army are permitted to cross the racecourse so it is probably something that has been there for a very long time.” Metal detectors will now be used at Larkhill to ensure no similar incidents will occur.

“We have been racing at Larkhill for 60 years and something like this has never happened. It is incredibly unlikely to happen again,” Major Shaw added.