There were chaotic scenes following a two-year-old fillies’ maiden at the Galway Festival on Tuesday evening after Alizarine, apparently a 4-1 winner on debut for trainer Jessica Harrington, was disqualified when she “could not be positively identified post-race”. This, it soon transpired, was because “Alizarine” was in fact Aurora Princess, a three-year-old filly due to run in a handicap later on the card.
Harrington later apologised for the mix-up, which was discovered before a “winner all right” message – the Irish equivalent of “weighed in” – had been issued to make the result official for betting purposes. The initial placings were later revised, with Aidan O’Brien’s Twinkle, the 5-4 favourite, promoted to first place.
“We ran the wrong horse,” Harrington told the Racing Post. “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 [between the hairline and her hoof] 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 British Horseracing Authority has tightened its procedures for avoiding similar embarrassments in recent years after a series of “wrong horse” blunders, and the identity microchips in all horses are now scanned both on arrival at a racecourse and on departure from the stables to the parade ring.
That was not enough to prevent the most recent case of mistaken identity, however, when Mother Earth and Snowfall – both of whom have gone on to win English Classics this season – ran under each other’s names in the Group One Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket last autumn. Both fillies were in the correct race, but had been saddled with the wrong number-cloths.
The apparent identity check on “Alizarine” after her race and not before is likely to prompt close scrutiny of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s procedures.
The sport’s regulator in Ireland has appeared to lurch from one crisis to the next in recent months, following a claim by leading trainer Jim Bolger that performance-enhancing drugs are “the number one problem” facing the sport. IHRB executives were recently called to give evidence to a parliamentary committee considering the claims.
The body was also at the centre of a storm when a photo of Grand National-winning trainer Gordon Elliott sitting on a dead horse on his gallops emerged earlier this year, while former trainer Stephen Mahon was suspended for four years in June for serious neglect of horses at his stable.
The issue of ex-racehorses from Ireland being transported to the UK for slaughter was also highlighted by a recent Panorama investigation.
Niall Cronin, the IHRB’s communications officer, told the Racing Post that its procedures are likely to be reviewed. “It is something that has happened on occasion in the past,” Cronin said, “and it will be looked at again. We review everything that happens.”
Richard Hannon decided to send Snow Lantern to Wednesday’s Sussex Stakes at Goodwood rather than the 10-furlong Nassau Stakes for fillies and mares the following afternoon, but she is likely to need another career-best performance to overcome Poetic Flare (3.35), who was an exceptional winner of the St James’s Palace Stakes at the Royal meeting last month.
Like so many of Jim Bolger’s horses, Poetic Flare has thrived on his racing this season, living up to the trainer’s suggestion after his win in the 2,000 Guineas that he is the “complete racehorse”.
Snow Lantern, Alcohol Free and Order Of Australia, the other three previous Group One winners in the field, all have several pounds to find with Poetic Flare on that form and the Guineas winner looks ready to take this step up to all-aged company in his stride.
Goodwood 1.50 Kolisi is stepping up to a mile and a half for the first time but he is a son of Harzand and a half-brother to a winner at 14 furlongs so there is every chance he will improve for the test. William Haggas’s lightly-raced gelding has form on testing ground too, and broke his duck with plenty in hand on good-to-soft going at Salisbury last time.
Goodwood 2.25 Bounce The Blues has yet to register a win in five starts since joining Andrew Balding last autumn, but she went very close at Group Three level at Lingfield in May, has form on soft ground and Oisin Murphy to do the steering. A price of around 9-1 looks generous.
Goodwood 3.00 Fearby was much improved in the Dragon Stakes at Sandown last time and unlike his main market rival, Chipotle, has convincing form with cut in the ground.
Goodwood 4.10 At the prices, it could be worth chancing La Feile at around 9-1 to progress from her winning debut at Beverley a fortnight ago. Her inexperience showed for much of the race but she found a real finishing kick when it mattered.