BHA responds to second wrong horse blunder in six months

Ivan Furtado-trained horse ran in wrong races on same day at Southwell last week

Ivan Furtado ran the wrong horses in two races at Southwell last month.

Ivan Furtado ran the wrong horses in two races at Southwell last month.

 

The British Horseracing Authority said on Thursday that it was “simply unacceptable” that two horses from the same yard were inadvertently switched between their intended races at Southwell last week, just six months after a similar mix-up at Yarmouth prompted the regulator to promise to act immediately “to prevent this from happening again”.

The latest case of mistaken identity, which occurred on January 14th but did not emerge until Thursday afternoon, involved two five-year-old geldings trained by Ivan Furtado: Scribner Creek, a bay, and African Trader, described as “bay or brown”.

Scribner Creek was declared to run in a one-mile handicap but ran instead in a seven-furlong event and finished third, earning punters who believed they were backing African Trader an each-way payout at 12-1. African Trader then ran in the mile handicap in place of Scribner Creek, and finished in a dead-heat for seventh place.

All horses racing on British tracks are micro-chipped for identification purposes, and the latest mix-up occurred despite a new, more stringent regime for scanning horses which was introduced a similar incident at Yarmouth in July. Previously, horses were only scanned on arrival at the racecourse, but the new rule requires a second scan as a horse leaves the racecourse stable to go out to the saddling boxes, about 20 minutes before the off-time for its race.

The mistake was also picked up only by chance, since one of the horses involved was randomly selected for dope-testing after its race. Even then, a routine scan of the horse’s microchip failed to detect the error, which emerged only via an internal audit process to check and reconcile raceday sampling data. Had the horse not been chosen for sampling, the switch would have gone undetected.

There were no suspicious betting patterns in either race and the BHA is satisfied that the horses’ identities had been accidentally confused prior to their arrival at the racecourse.

Charlie McBride was fined £1,500 after the incident at Yarmouth in August, when his three-year-old Millie’s Kiss ran in a juvenile race as Mandarin Princess and “won” at 50-1. Furtado, who has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that the correct horse runs in a race, will now face a disciplinary hearing, but the BHA conceded on Thursday that as the sport’s regulator, it has “overall responsibility for the running of a raceday”, and that it needed to “take measures to improve the robustness of the identification processes and reduce the risk of human error”.

As a result, the BHA will now ensure that the microchip scanners, which operate via a smartphone app, are automatically cross-checked with the racecard to ensure that a horse leaving for the saddling boxes before a race has in fact been declared to run in it. The new regime will be introduced “in March”.

In a statement released on Thursday alongside the notice of Furtado’s forthcoming hearing, the regulator said: “This is the second time in six months where there has been an incident in which an incorrect horse has competed in a race. This is simply unacceptable. It affects the betting public, bookmakers and other participants and risks undermining confidence in the integrity of the sport.

“What is clearly of greatest concern in this case is the question of why this happened, how it was allowed to happen and what can be done to ensure that it does not happen again.

“It is vital that the public’s trust in racing as a fair, well-regulated sport, which is run with the highest standards of professionalism and integrity, is not impacted by similar incidents.”

Both horses will be disqualified from their races, with prize money redistributed where appropriate. In accordance with normal betting practice, however, the result at the “weigh-in” will determine payouts and each-way backers of the 20-1 chance Pudding Chare, who will be promoted to third in the race contested by Scribner Creek, will not be paid. – Guardian service

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