The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) has said it will examine whether horses need identity scans before races after another embarrassing mix-up saw a ‘winner’ disqualified at Killarney on Saturday.
The John Feane-trained Ano Manna, a 7-2 favourite, had to be disqualified from a handicap after it was discovered the horse wasn’t Ano Manna at all but her stable companion Indigo Five, who had been due to race later on the card.
Indigo Five was declared a non-runner for his scheduled contest and the real Ano Manna was deemed to be a non-runner. Bang Po was declared the race winner.
Feane was fined €3,000 for a mix up he put down to “human error”. The trainer accepted full responsibility for the second incident of its kind in the last two years.
In 2021, Jessica Harrington was fined €2,000 after the wrong horse won a two-year-old maiden at the Galway festival. The ‘winner’ Alizarine turned out to be a three-year-old stable companion Auroa Princess.
The weekend foul-up again puts the spotlight on how identity scans on horse’s microchips are not carried out by the IHRB when they enter the parade ring before a race.
Such scans have been introduced in Britain after a number of embarrassing cases of wrong identity in recent years and they are also done in point-to-point racing here.
Even after the Harrington case in Galway generated criticism and considerable reputational cost, the IHRB resisted taking a similar step.
Horses have their microchips scanned on entering the racecourse stableyard but not before going into the parade ring. Only winners then have their microchips scanned after a race, which led to Saturday’s outcome in Killarney.
It throws open the possibility of other unidentified ‘wrong’ horses taking part in races, although IHRB officials believe such a scenario is highly unlikely.
“We will review the events yesterday again and we will consider whether changes need to be made to the procedures or not.
“But it is the responsibility of the trainer to present the right horse for a race and Mr Feane fully accepted that responsibility,” an IHRB spokesman said on Sunday.
Feane told the Killarney stewards that he was delayed in getting to the races and only found out the error when he was informed upon his arrival.
He added that staff member Fergus Gallagher was responsible for the saddling of Ano Manna and while he is familiar with both Ana Manna and Indigo Five, both fillies are similar in colour and size.
Feane accepted the error was fully his and apologised for the mistake.
He later told Racing TV: “It’s human error. These things happen. I was delayed getting to the races and the horse raced. I’ve apologised to the owners already and its cost everyone money.
“I fancied both horses. It certainly cost Ray [owner of Indigo Five] and Ano Manna’s owner James Stanley, who is an important owner, as are all my owners.
“My horse was tacked up, I arrived 10 minutes late. I noticed immediately down at the stable yard that it was the wrong horse. It is just an unfortunate series of events. It’s history now. People study history to know why things go wrong.”
The most high-profile case of mistaken identity came in 2020 when the Group One Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket saw a pair of Aidan O’Brien-trained fillies, Snowfall and Mother Earth, both subsequent Classic winners, saddled incorrectly. The mistake was only spotted by a TV viewer.
In 2020, the British Horseracing Authority began an additional check on runners before each race in addition to being scanned on arrival at racecourses stables.