The British Horseracing Authority said on Friday that it would “compensate connections for the inconvenience” after “an operational error” forced them to order that Earl Of Bunnacurry, the winner of his last two races, should be withdrawn from a race at Wolverhampton on Saturday evening.
The BHA exercised its right to refuse to let any horse run in a race for which it been declared after it came to light that Earl Of Bunnacurry, trained by Gavin Cromwell, would have been running off a handicap mark 9lb below its intended rating.
The enforced withdrawal of a possible favourite just 24 hours before a race is the latest in a series of embarrassing blunders which have bedevilled the sport in recent months.
In early October, Magic Pulse was wrongly withdrawn from a valuable race at Nottingham after another runner in the same race, Operative, was scratched after becoming unruly in the stalls. The racecourse PA system mistakenly announced that Magic Pulse was the horse that had been withdrawn, and while the error was quickly corrected, the stewards then decided Magic Pulse would not be allowed to run because betting markets in Britain and around the world had already started to react to the horse’s apparent withdrawal. Craig Buckingham, the owner of Magic Pulse, subsequently suggested that the decision might prompt him to turn his back on the sport.
In January, meanwhile, two horses from the same stable ran in the wrong races on a card at Southwell, which was the second time in the space of six months that horses had ended up in the wrong races after arriving from the same yard. The embarrassment was compounded when a urine sample from one of the horses was sent for analysis and the mix-up still did not come to light until 24 hours after the test had taken place.
In the latest case had the correct mark of 61 been applied to Earl Of Bunnacurry, he would have been outside the 0-60 ratings band for the Class 6 race and therefore ineligible to run. It was not possible for the four-year-old to carry 10 stone in Saturday’s race rather than his allotted 9st 5lb due to a rule which states that the weights carried by horses cannot be altered after 9am on the day of declaration.
The reason for the error appears to have been a failure to account for Earl Of Bunnacurry’s success at Southwell on 12 November, when he won off an effective mark of 56 from 4lb out of the handicap. He subsequently carried a 6lb penalty to victory in a race at Wolverhampton three days later, but despite having been raised to a new mark of 61, he was declared off 52 for Saturday’s race, giving him 9lb in hand of his field.
In a statement on Friday evening, the BHA said that it has “offered its apologies to the horse’s trainer and owner, and extend those to the jockey and stable staff connected to the horse. We have offered to compensate connections for the inconvenience.”
The statement continued: “The BHA’s processes will be reviewed to reduce the risk of a similar incident occurring. Any further action will be an internal matter to the BHA.”