'We ran the wrong horse' - Jessica Harrington apologises after Galway mix-up
Jessica Harrington has apologised after she 'won' the two-year-old fillies' maiden (5.10) at Galway on Tuesday with a three-year-old handicapper.
It emerged after the race that Aurora Princess, who has won two of her nine starts, is rated 79 and was due to run later on the card, finished first past the post when it should have been the debutante Alizarine running in the race.
Aurora Princess came home strongly under Shane Foley to beat the Aidan O'Brien-trained 5-4 favourite Twinkle. However, no 'winner all right' was announced before the official disqualification, as the identification query was raised after the microchip of the winner was scanned as she left the parade ring, prompting the IHRB veterinary team to object to the result.
Dr Lynn Hillyer, chief veterinary officer with the IHRB, said of the sequence of events: "The horses are scanned before the winner alright is called. So they are scanned and identified as they come in to the racecourse, and then the winner is scanned as they come out of the parade ring."
Hillyer declined to elaborate further when asked if the IHRB would review its procedures, which don't cater for horses' microchips to be scanned again following their arrival at the track and before they race.
After the disqualification was announced, Aurora Princess was declared a non-runner later on the card, with confirmation of the disqualification announced at 5.58pm.
Harrington, who has yet to learn if she will be sanctioned as the matter was referred to the IHRB for further investigation, told the Racing Post: "We ran the wrong horse. 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."
The incident has shone a light on the lack of identification checks being conducted when horses enter the parade ring.
3rd Past Time
5th Elizabeth's Pride
In one of the more high-profile examples of identity errors in recent years, the Aidan O'Brien-trained duo of Mother Earth and Snowfall carried each other's numbers and intended riders in last year's Fillies' Mile at Newmarket.
Harrington added: "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. I am very upset about it and I am very, very sorry."
Niall Cronin, the IHRB communications officer, subsequently said of Tuesday's incident: "Mrs Harrington has taken full responsibility for what has happened. She referred to the two horses during the inquiry as being almost identical – like twins."
'We had to disqualify something'
Asked whether procedures would be reviewed, he added: "It is something that has happened on occasion in the past, and it will be looked at again. We review everything that happens."
On the question of why Alizarine wasn't declared a non-runner and Rule 4 deductions implemented, Cronin said: "Having considered all the evidence, the stewards upheld the objection that was made. As the horse Alizarine did not run in the race, that horse was deemed to be unplaced under rule 266, and the horse purported to be Alizarine was disqualified.
"It's a bit like dangerous riding. If there is dangerous riding, the horse is disqualified – there is no Rule 4. It's the same if a trainer doesn't put a lead bag on – if the trainer doesn't put the lead bag on, that horse cannot win the race."
Pressed on the fact that Alizarine never took part, so couldn't win and should have been declared a non-runner, similar to a horse who didn't enter the stalls, he added: "No, because a horse ran, so for Twinkle to be promoted, we had to disqualify something. It's not straightforward. Alizarine could not win the race, but Aurora Princess was unknowingly tacked up as the wrong horse."
Read more on high-profile mix-ups:
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