There was drama in the opening race on Coral-Eclipse day at Sandown, with a stewards’ inquiry called following a photo-finish.
The judge announced the Jessica Macey-trained Phoenix Star (6-1) as the narrow-margin winner from Hurricane Ivor (11-1), trained by William Haggas, in the Coral ‘Beaten-By-A-Length’ Free Bet Handicap.
However, the stewards called an inquiry before the jockeys had weighed in and, after deliberation, the officials decided it was a dead-heat – even though the mirror image on the print appeared to show Hurricane Ivor had narrowly edged it.
Macey said: “It’s fair to say that was a rollercoaster of emotions, but I’ll take a dead-heat!
“This is by far my biggest winner, I never even thought I’d have a runner on Eclipse day never mind a winner.
“Chris Dwyer is my uncle, I’ve also worked for Charlie Appleby. I’m training out of John Balding’s old yard near Doncaster.
“I’ve about 15 horses, but only six running at the moment with the others youngsters.”
A number of bookmakers announced they would pay out on both horses as the full winners.
Hurricane Ivor was having his second start for Haggas following a move from France, where he had some smart form.
The Newmarket handler said: “In the top picture it looks like we’ve won, but in the bottom picture it looks like a dead-heat.
“The amazing thing is how the judge called the other one the winner. That’s one thing that didn’t happen!
“Hopefully they show everyone what I’ve seen. The third and fourth were the other way round, too.
“It’s pretty difficult, but I won’t be appealing. It’s the original result I’ve a problem with.”
A further inquiry was held into a problem with the mirror image of the photo, after which Shaun Parker, the British Horseracing Authority’s head of stewarding, said: “We knew the result was close and we have procedures in place where photo-finishes are checked by the stewards in the stewards’ room as well.
“We noticed there was a discrepancy between the actual photograph itself and the mirror image. There was a noticeable difference between the two at which he point we asked the judge to have another look to make sure as the mirror appeared to be out.
“At the same time they were looking at the third and fourth place and they had picked up there was a difference there too, but those two places were a lot clearer in terms of where the horses had finished.
“We then went back to the judge and sent the photographs back and the stewards looked at the monitor to see if we could get the result out.
“We couldn’t use the mirror image as there was a slight distortion at the top section of the mirror image. The judge was then not satisfied on the evidence she had on the actual photograph with the noses that she could sufficiently call the result.
“On the image we had we could not clearly say there was one horse was ahead of the other one in terms of the photograph and the fairest result was to declare a dead-heat.
“What we did then was we had an inquiry into why the mirror image did not work. We have compiled a report and that has been forwarded on to the head office of the British Horseracing Authority.”
Marquand went on to complete a 2,015-1 four-timer with victories on Came From The Dark (5-1) for Ed Walker in the Coral Charge, on the Tom Ward-trained Farasi Lane (7-1) in the Play Coral ‘Racing-Super-Series’ For Free Handicap and on Wink Of An Eye (5-2 favourite) in the Coral Backing Prostate Cancer UK Handicap. The latter, owned by the Queen, gave Haggas a double.
John and Thady Gosden’s Magical Morning was well fancied for the Royal Hunt Cup and while he failed to trouble the judge there his victory in the Coral Challenge suggested more to come.
Frankie Dettori tracked the pace-setting Maydanny until hitting the front inside the final furlong.
Maydanny stuck to his task well, but the 13-2 chance won by three-quarters of a length.
Gosden senior said: “The ground was just too quick for him in the Hunt Cup, which was a shame as that had been the plan since last autumn!
“It was always Plan B to come here, he’s a grand horse and this was a pretty smart handicap.
“He’s in the Golden Mile (at Goodwood), but you couldn’t fancy anything in that until you see the draw.”
The Roger Charlton-trained Makram (3-1 favourite) kept on well after leading over a furlong out in the hands of James Doyle to beat Rhythmic Intent by a length and a quarter in the Coral Proud To Support British Racing Handicap.