It’s not often you hear of a horse winning a race that it wasn’t even supposed to run in. That’s exactly what happened to trainer Jessica Harrington at the Galway Races this week.
The Irish trainer, who trained Magic Of Light to second place in the 2019 Grand National, sent out the wrong horse in the two-year-old fillies’ maiden on Tuesday.
Three-year-old Aurora Princess was down to run later in the day but was saddled instead of Alizarine. The mix-up was only spotted as the horses had their microchips scanned as they left the parade ring before the winner was declared.
How Did It Happen?
Jessica Harrington has since admitted that because the two horses in question are remarkably alike, it was human error that caused the mix-up.
Harrington 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.
1/2 On behalf of all at #TeamJHR I want to apologise to everyone for what happened yesterday. We are particularly sorry for the owners of both Fillies but also to anyone else who was impacted by our mistake. It was human error, a mistake that we will learn from.
— Jessica Harrington (@Jessica_Racing) July 28, 2021
“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.”
We can all accept that mistakes can and do get made but what happens if the horses are not microchipped? As you can imagine, this incident has now turned the focus on the identification of horses before they race.
Plans Going Forward
Niall Cronin, the IHRB communications officer said: “It is something that has happened on occasion in the past, and it will be looked at again.
“We review everything that happens.”
There’s a lot to digest in that sentence. Should all racehorses be microchipped? Is it possible to simply rely on connections to send out the right horse, particularly as in some races, it may be a debut or very early in a horses’ career so few people outside of the yard can actually identify them at first sight?
Yes, it has happened in the past. It happened to Aidan O’Brien last year when his two runners carried the wrong numbers. But if Aurora Princess didn’t have a microchip, she could very well have been declared the winner, despite being three years old running in a race specifically for two-year-olds.
As it happened, the error was picked up, Aurora Princess was disqualified and scratched from the race she was actually supposed to run in. It was a costly mistake for Harrington as the winner took home nearly £10K. It may not be Gold Cup money but every penny counts in this ultra-competitive industry.