Odds-on favourite Oregon Gift and 8-1 chance Bird For Life were in a photo-finish at in the 8.45 at Kempton Park on Friday, with Bird For Life incorrectly called the winner
The British Horseracing Authority said on Wednesday evening that it will take action to “minimise the risk” of mistakes by photo-finish judges after it emerged that an odds-on favourite had been incorrectly called as the runner-up in a race at Kempton Park five days ago.
The error is the latest mistake by a racecourse official to embarrass the regulators, following two cases in the last year in which a pair of runners from the same stable ended up running in the wrong races on the card.
The result of the 8.45 race at Kempton last Friday was initially called in favour of Bird For Life, an 8-1 chance, who appeared to have collared Oregon Gift, the 10-11 favourite, in the final stride to win by a nose. Following a further review of the photo-finish image, the BHA said on Wednesday that Oregon Gift had held on to first place and that the result has now been changed. In accordance with normal betting practice, however, the original result at the “weighed in” announcement will stand for betting purposes and bets on Oregon Gift are still losers.
“Clearly, the whole team is disappointed to have to correct any race result after the day,” Brant Dunshea, the BHA’s director of integrity and raceday operations, said. “While it is appropriate that our processes allow us to put this right financially by the owner of the winning horse, we are aware that the betting public are significantly affected by issues such as this owing to the fact that the rules of betting mean that the result called on the day stands for betting purposes. We apologise to everyone affected.”
The BHA said later in a statement that it will take action “to minimise the risk of a recurrence”. While the details remain unclear, the statement added that it will “provide further support for judges by ensuring that all photo-finish decisions are available for review by a BHA official before the ‘weighed-in’ is announced, ensuring that there is a second check before betting is settled.”
Modern technology means that it is now possible for a judge to find a winner in a head-bobbing finish that would have been called as a dead heat 20 years ago. Mistakes when analysing photo-finishes are very rare but not unprecedented, a recent example being a race on a foggy day at Lingfield in December 2017 when the initial result of a tight battle for third place was later reversed.
The latest case of the “wrong” horse winning a race comes less than a year after two horses from the Charlie McBride stable were inadvertently “swapped” before their intended races at Yarmouth. As a result, the three-year-old Millie’s Kiss ran in a contest for juveniles, and “won” at 50-1.
The BHA subsequently tightened its raceday procedures but in January two runners from Ivan Furtado’s yard lined up for the wrong races on a card at Southwell, and while neither managed to win, one finished in the frame for each-way bets.