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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

NTF chief calls for double-checking system to curb spate of judging errors

Oregon Gift (far side) was incorrectly called the runner-up in a photo-finish. He has since been awarded the race
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National Trainers' Federation chief executive Rupert Arnold on Thursday said he hoped the introduction of a double-checking system for photo-finishes would put a halt to a run of judging errors that were "just not good enough".

On Wednesday the BHA announced future photo-finishes would be subject to a second opinion before official results are announced after it was forced to amend the finishing order of a race at Kempton last Friday in which Bird For Life had been originally called the winner by a nose from odds-on favourite Oregon Gift.

It followed similar corrective action taken by the regulator in January when the results of two races at Bangor were changed.

Arnold said he found it hard to believe how the judge of the race at Kempton, Felix Wheeler, had got the finishing order wrong in the first place.

"I have spoken to Brant Dunshea [director of integrity and raceday operations for the BHA] and understand what they are going to do and one has to hope it ensures it doesn't happen again, certainly for something that looks as clear as it does to me on the photo," he said.

Rupert Arnold: "It is important for British racing still to have access to the best-skilled international workers"

"Obviously something has to be done to improve the record of assessing these photographs. Three in the spate of six months is just not good enough. I am satisfied the BHA is taking it seriously to put in place the measures that are needed to get it right.

"I accept there is always going to be human error involved but I think if there is a system of double checking hopefully that will sort it out. Based on what I've seen of the Kempton one, a second opinion would have produced the right result."

The BHA has apologised for the error and is in the process of introducing additional checks and balances by making all photo finish decisions available for a review by a BHA official on the track before the weighed in signal is given. It has not yet been decided who the official would be.

A BHA spokesperson said: "We do not anticipate it will cause any unreasonable delay."

After a previous mix-up judge Graham Ford was stood down by the BHA but did subsequently resume his role.

The BHA would not say whether Wheeler had been suspended, describing it as an internal matter that was confidential. Wheeler, who has been a BHA judge for nearly 12 years, said: "I'm not allowed to talk to you."

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Obviously something has to be done to improve the record of assessing these photographs. Three in the spate of six months is just not good enough
E.W. Terms
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