Confusion reigned after the first race at Sandown as Rio Ronaldo was initially called the winner only for the result to be revised just minutes later.
The Mike Murphy-trained Rio Ronaldo and Henry Candy’s Vibrant Chords were locked in battle at the finish of the five-furlong London Insurance Day Handicap, with the first-named runner called as the winner.
However, it was then announced that the result had been revised following further study of the photo-finish, with Vibrant Chords awarded a nose victory, much to the dismay of Rio Ronaldo’s connections.
Murphy said: “It’s hugely disappointing. Firstly it’s disappointing for the owners who have come back in cheering the horse. We knew it was close. The judge called it number four and Andrea Atzeni thought he had just won it.
“It looked like we were just beaten by a whisker on the mobile phone picture I was shown. If I can see that on an iPhone, then why can’t they see that? It beggars belief.
“They called the result very quickly, so they thought there was no doubt. Anthony Kemp (racecourse announcer) then said they now think number one has won. I thought he was joking, but then people do not joke about things like that.”
Candy was pleased to see his charge prevail and added: “They are a lovely gang of people. They are small owners and they were so excited.”
The British Horseracing Authority said in a statement that while it was “not ideal” the owners of Rio Ronaldo briefly thought they had won, the newly introduced system had in fact worked as intended.
Brant Dunshea, chief regulatory officer for the BHA, said: “Clearly the priority is to make sure the result is called correctly first time round. However, a new system was put in place this week which ensures a verification check by the stewards of any photo finish call that takes place.
“That procedure has identified that the initial result was not called correctly and therefore the stewards asked the judge to clarify his decision. This resulted in the decision being amended prior to the ‘weighed in’ being announced. The new procedure has therefore worked as intended.
“Under the revised procedure judges will continue to announce the result as they first see it, but then a verification check will take place before the result is made official. The ‘weighed in’ announcement is the point at which a result is confirmed and at which point, under the rules of betting, bookmakers are obliged to pay out on the result, and not before.
“We appreciate that there is a period whereby those connected with the horse who placed second will have thought they had won. This is not ideal and why we must focus on getting the result correct first time.
“However, ensuring that the check takes place before weighed in ensures that the correct result is in place ahead of the result being made official.”
It proved a costly error for prominent on-course bookmaker Barry Dennis.
He said: “I rang my son and he told me they’d changed the result after five minutes. We’d already paid out nearly £2,000 on Rio Ronaldo and now I’ll have to pay out on number one (Vibrant Chords).
“The official idea is I must not pay out until the weigh-in, but punters won’t wait for the weigh-in nowadays. As soon as they’ve won, they’re delighted and they come up with their ticket and they draw their money.
“If you start saying you’ve got to wait 10 minutes until the weigh-in, it causes a lot of unrest and therefore we pay out immediately.
“We don’t expect them to tell us five minutes later that there’s a different result. It’s never happened in my 60 years of being on course.”