Jessica Harrington apologises after ‘human error’ leads to Galway disqualification

Mistaken identity issue involving filly Alizarine referred to IHRB for investigation

Shane Foley onboard Alizarine  comes home to win the Colm Quinn BMW Irish EBF Fillies Maiden at Galay. Photograph: Caroline Norris/Inpho

Shane Foley onboard Alizarine comes home to win the Colm Quinn BMW Irish EBF Fillies Maiden at Galay. Photograph: Caroline Norris/Inpho

 

Irish racing’s reputation took another blow at the Galway Festival on Tuesday when in a case of mistaken identity Jessica Harrington ‘won’ a two-year-old maiden with a three-year-old.

Routine post-race scanning of the ‘winner’ of the Colm Quinn BMW Maiden showed it wasn’t the racing debutant Alizarine but in fact her older stable companion Aurora Princess who was due to run in a later race.

Aurora Princess was subsequently withdrawn and the Aidan O’Brien-trained 5-4 favourite Twinkle was promoted to first having been second past the post, a length and three quarters behind the ‘winner’. The error was spotted before the ‘winner all right’ was announced and bets paid out.

Harrington quickly held her hands up to “human error” and reported that two similarly coloured bay fillies of similar size had been mixed up when being saddled by her assistant. She apologised to everyone and took full responsibility.

The matter has been referred to the chief executive of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) for further investigation into all aspects of the matter. No penalties were handed out on Tuesday.

The embarrassing scenes echoed last year’s Group One Fillies Mile in Newmarket when two Aidan O’Brien-trained fillies, Snowfall and Mother Earth, were saddled incorrectly.

That mistake was only pinpointed on social media by a TV viewer. This time the case of mistaken identity was established by IHRB officials but only after the race was run.

The real Alizarine had been scanned on arrival at the track ahead of her racecourse debut.

However, former champion jockey turned pundit Ruby Walsh said on RTÉ he couldn’t understand why horses aren’t scanned again when entering the parade ring for their race, like in point-to-points, to prevent such mistakes occurring.

Harrington said she was “very upset” and “very, very sorry” about the mix-up.

“They are two bay fillies that look exactly the same. One has a tiny little bit of white on the back of her hind coronary band but they are the same size and very similar.

“ My representative, ‘Bubba’ Amond, held his hands up straight away. He had the saddle on by the time I saw her in the ring. It’s human error and I apologise to everyone,” she reported in the Racing Post.

“It has never happened to me before but I suppose it is always an accident waiting to happen. It’s not the first time it has happened to people.

“It happened to Aidan O’Brien at Newmarket last year as well but it’s just human error,” she added.

An IHRB spokesman said Harrington told the stewards’ enquiry that the two horses at the centre of the controversy were “almost like twins”.

He commented: “It’s not a situation anyone would like to see happening. Mrs Harrington held her hands up immediately once called to the stewards. She said herself it was a mistake and human error happens.”

However, for a regulatory body already under pressure, including for raceday procedural mistakes such as the shambolic start at Naas in January which prompted an unreserved apology, it prompts inevitable questions as to why horses are scanned after a race but not immediately beforehand.

Just as inevitable was how attention was diverted from a shock 50-1 success for Sirjack Thomas, who made full use of getting into the big €100,000 mile handicap from first reserve.

The Mikey Sheehy-ridden horse gave trainer Ado McGuinness a third win in a row in the day two festival feature. Saltonstall, winner in 2019 and 2020, briefly looked like he might secure a hat-trick when leading on the turn-in but faded to sixth.

Sirjack Thomas had three lengths in hand over another outsider Quizical at the line with Mosala in third.

Co Dublin-based McGuinness ran six in the race and commented: “I know I threw plenty of bullets but that’s what you have to do sometimes.”

Earlier Galtee Mist, in foal to Make Believe, made all to land the Listed Corrib Stakes.

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