If Jurgen Klopp dropped Mo Salah to the bench and played Dejan Lovren on the right wing instead in a pique of mistaken identity, you’d worry that the German manager had lost his marbles.
But when it comes to correctly identifying a race horse, it can be more problematic for a trainer who works with dozens of animals every day – some of which look markedly similar.
So you can probably spare a though for Jedd O’Keefe, the trainer who sent the wrong horse to a meeting at Lingfield.
To make matters worse – especially for punters – the case of mistaken identity saw Aegeus, the 5/1 favourite for the 1m 2f handicap, left at his North Yorkshire yard while another horse was sent to the Surrey track in his place.
That meant that the replacement horse was declared a non-runner, and punters hoping to get their betting week off to a great start by backing the fav were left red-faced by the mix up.
2:30 Lingfield, 9th December 2019, Full Result
|1st||Just The Man||Clive Cox||Adam Kirby||15/8|
|2nd||The Jean Genie||William Stone||Hollie Doyle||9/1|
|3rd||Humbert||David O’Meara||David Probert||10/1|
|4th||Michele Strogoff||Michael Appleby||Alistair Rawlinson||6/1|
|5th||Sezim||Mohamed Moubarak||Raul Da Silva||16/1|
|6th||Wimpole Hall||William Jarvis||Gaia Boni||7/1|
|7th||Sky Defender||Mark Johnston||Franny Norton||3/1|
All horses have their microchips scanned when they arrive at a track by officials, and when scanning this mystery horse O’Keefe’s mistake quickly became apparent.
“We bought the owners a number of horses at the horses in training sales,” he said by way of explanation. “Two came back together and they’ve been mixed up ever since. It’s completely and utterly my fault and my fault alone that I didn’t check.
“I’m embarrassed to say that we do have our own scanner and it’s just slipped through the net and something I forgot to do. It hasn’t happened before, and I can guarantee it won’t happen again.
“We’ve scanned every single horse on the yard since we found out just to make sure I haven’t made another stupid error.”
You might think that this is a rare occurrence, but actually it happens more regularly than you might think.
What Happens to Bets in Cases of Mistaken Identity?
In this Aegeus example, the ‘replacement’ horse was declared a non-runner, so all day-of-race bets would have been refunded under the normal rules.
However, bets placed on the day before the race would not have been refunded unless the bookmaker in question chose to do so as an act of goodwill.
There have been instances where the wrong horse has been sent to the track and raced….in this case, the outcome is declared void and stakes refunded.
The Phantom 50/1 Winner
Speaking of betting in the case of a mistaken identity, how annoyed would you be to have backed the favourite in a novice auction stakes at Yarmouth in 2017 only to see it pipped at the post by a 50/1 no-hoper.
But that was exactly what happened when Mandarin Princess, a 50/1 longshot with the bookies, hosed up to defeat the well-backed 6/4 favourite Fyre Cay by a neck to leave punters on their knees.
1:40 Yarmouth, 27th July 2017, Full Result
|Disqualified||Millie’s Kiss||Philip McBride||John Egan||50/1|
|1st||Fyre Cay||Kevin Ryan||Jamie Spencer||4/6 F|
|2nd||Take Shelter||James Tate||Luke Morris||11/4|
|3rd||Merkava||Robyn Brisland||George Wood||20/1|
|4th||Dorcas||James Given||Silvestre De Sousa||13/2|
|5th||Agent Of Fortune||Christine Dunnett||Royston Ffrench||250/1|
|6th||Moremoneymoreparty||Richard Guest||Adam Beschizza||28/1|
However, there was redemption to come of sorts. Following a routine post-race urine sample and scan, it transpired that Mandarin Princess was in fact Millie’s Kiss, a three-year-old racing in a renewal aimed at two-year-olds.
The bay fillies were confused by trainer Charlie McBride, and all the more remarkable is that the bookies paid out on the original result because the identity balls-up only came to light after the official weigh-in process.
This wasn’t announced until more than two hours after the race had finished to punters at the Yarmouth track, while At the Races confirmed afterwards that they received more emails complaining about the outcome of that race than on any other subject before.
As later confirmed by the BHA:
“The issue had not been established until after the result had been made official. After the weighed in has been declared on the racecourse, the result cannot be amended by the stewards.”
It took barely six months for another case of mistaken identity to occur on a UK racecourse, and that came even after the BHA had introduced a secondary measure of identification by scanning horses prior to each race starting.
Even with that security in place, there was another embarrassing slip-up at Southwell in January 2018 when the trainer Ivan Furtado mixed up the identities of two of his horses.
That meant that African Trader and Scribner Creek ran in the wrong handicap races – a situation exacerbated by the latter placing in his outing.
Southwell, 14th January 2018
|3:25 Full Result||3:55 Full Result|
|Position||Horse (SP)||Position||Horse (SP)|
|1st||Spun Gold (11/8)||1st||Shearian (14/1)|
|2nd||Best Tamayuz (9/1)||2nd||Chaucer’s Tale (7/1)|
|Disqualified||Scribner Creek (12/1)||3rd||Break The Silence (9/1)|
|3rd||Pudding Chare (20/1)||4th||Mr Coco Bean (8/11)|
|4th||Meandmyshadow (9/1)||5th||General Tufto (33/1)|
|5th||Joey’s Destiny (12/1)||6th||Sugar Beach (33/1)|
|6th||Red Shanghai (150/1)||Disqualified||African Trader (9/2)|
|7th||Declamation (11/4)||7th||Emigrated (50/1)|
|8th||Noble Ballad (25/1)||8th||Star Links (50/1)|
|–||–||9th||Sea Of Hope (25/1)|
That left the BHA grovelling for forgiveness once more as bookies were forced to pay out as the mistake only came to light after the weigh-in process had occurred.
Indeed, the error only came to light the following day, when the result of African Trader’s dope testing came back.
They were both retrospectively disqualified from their races, with Furtado hauled up before the BHA’s big cheeses to find out what had gone wrong.
“We got seven horses from the same yard that came at the same time,” the trainer explained. “They were identified and the names put on the doors, but I think in those first days somehow they must have gone to the walker or to exercise and came back to the wrong box and we treated them as the wrong horse ever since.”
The Not-So-Funky Gibbon
It seems that Australian racing isn’t immune to their own cases of imposter syndrome, with a high-profile error taking place back in May 2018.
That was at a meeting at Caulfield, where Wendy Kelly was hoping to see her horse Gibbon win in the Darren Gauci Handicap.
Unfortunately, she realised just half-hour shy of race time that she had packed Fast Cash, another bay horse with a striking white marking on his forehead, into her trailer by mistake.
“It was an honest mistake,” Kelly said. “When he arrived on course he had a rug on and I patted him on the head. I didn’t even twig then that it was the wrong horse.
“It’s unfortunate because I thought he had a good chance today.”
Race officials took a dim view, fining Kelly a cool $1000 AUD for her error.