Fontwell fiasco as seventh-home is awarded race after mass disqualifications
Dharma Rain finished nearly last in the mares’ handicap hurdle at Fontwell on Sunday but was awarded the race after all seven of the other finishers were disqualified for missing out a hurdle.
Confusion reigned in the 2m3f contest when racecourse staff appeared on the track with arrows and a chequered flag intended to instruct jockeys to shuffle around the outside of Bluebell Sally, who had been pulled up and was being tended to by medics.
But the proximity of the incident to the third-last hurdle meant seven of the eight remaining jockeys mistook the arrows as an instruction to bypass the obstacle, with Jack Tudor on the Clare Hobson-trained Dharma Rain the only one to make the jump.
The 100-30 shot was seventh past the post but was declared the automatic winner after stewards determined she was the only horse to have completed the course.
Harry Reed believed he had won the race aboard the Neil Mulholland-trained Just Henny but, after a lengthy inquiry that lasted more than half an hour, the decision was made to disqualify all runners bar Dharma Rain.
Tudor told Sky Sports Racing: "It was made very unclear, I thought. It wasn’t handled well at all.
"It looked like that hurdle could have been out. It was a 50-50 and I went with my gut instinct because the markers were behind the hurdle, so I decided to jump, but it was very unclear."
Page Fuller, who rode Queen Among Kings to pass the post in fifth, said the fading light during the last race of the day had not helped matters.
She said: "From where I was further back in the field, the markers looked like they were in the hurdle. Until you’d gone around the hurdle you couldn’t tell they were behind it."
After hearing evidence from each rider involved, the BHA announced that the disqualified jockeys would face no further punishment for taking the wrong course.
This was due to the genuine cause for concern created by the unfortunate positioning of the racecourse staff who were carrying the arrows across the track just as the field was approaching the third-last hurdle.
The BHA's official stewards' report stated: "Taking into account, on this occasion; the poor visibility, and the illusion that the chevrons had been placed in the hurdle – which was caused by the
chevrons being carried across the course behind the hurdle, which gave riders’ cause for concern for the safety of all involved – no penalties were imposed on any rider."
Several bookmakers announced they were paying out on Just Henny and Dharma Rain as winners, as well as paying on the two horses who crossed the line second and third, Havacuppa and Kalaya.
Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: "Dharma Rain is the only finisher by the rules, but in these unfortunate circumstances we felt it was only right to pay out on both ‘winners’ and the first three as they crossed the line."
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