Ryan furious as race is voided after ‘ridiculous’ flag farce

Chelmsford City: scene of Thursday's void race drama

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) Ryan furious as race is voided after flag farce
By Mark Scully 4:30PM 23 FEB 2017

KEVIN RYAN blasted racing for being "stuck in the dark ages" after a race won by his Nautical Haven was declared void due to a mix-up with the starting procedure.

On a day of drama and farce at the Essex venue, the 3.30 contest, a six furlong handicap, had already been delayed as the high winds of Storm Doris threatened to force the abandonment of the meeting following the first two races.

After an inspection the meeting got the green light to continue but a malfunction of the starting procedure saw the race declared void by the stewards, with Nautical Haven having been first past the post at odds of 3-1.

In the stewards report on the incident, the AFO (advanced flag operator) was blamed for the race being voided, apparently because she had mistakenly raised her recall flag, despite which all runners completed the course.

'A sheer cock-up'

An angry Ryan said: "I'm very disappointed. It was the horse's first race for a new owner and the plan was to come here. It was a sheer cock-up.

"All the lads carried on riding and it was just a technicality. It's a long way to travel and we should be compensated. It's not just the owner who suffers, though: apprentice Lewis Edmunds has driven there and back and misses out on a winner.

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"Our technology is stuck in the dark ages. To rely on a flag man in this day and age is ridiculous. In France they have lights that come on [to highlight a false start].

"The stewards have to take a lot of blame for pushing everyone so fast to make up the time. The starter was rushed, the flag man was rushed. That's how mistakes happen."

On whether his charge could now be reassesed by the handicapper despite the race being voided, Ryan added: "I'm not sure what the handicapper can do but if we go up we really will be kicking off."

'I've flown in from Malaga'

Would-be winning owner Nick Bradley was equally frustrated by the chain of events, describing the situation as "a shambles".

"The flag lady made a mistake and we've had to pay the price," he said. "I've flown in from Malaga this morning for this and it's a bit of a shambles to be honest.

"I understand why they had to void the race but not the way it's been carried out as the correct procedure has not been carried out. If she wants to void a race she has to keep her flag up and blow a whistle, which she didn't do.

"None of the jockeys even saw her flag and none of them stopped riding at any stage in the race. They said they are going to refer it to London."

Betting implications

In the event of a void race, all winning and losing bets are voided and stakes returned to punters, although some firms have opted to pay out on the winner regardless.

Paddy Power, Ladbrokes and Coral announced they would be paying out on Nautical Haven as well as on each-way bets on the runner-up, 16-1 shot Right Action, as well as winning forecasts.

Coral spokesman Simon Clare said: "This was another rather embarrassing episode for the sport, although perhaps there was some mitigation on this occasion as the weather conditions were particularly extreme.

"Once again we are left picking up the tab for this episode, as we can’t expect our customers to, and are therefore paying out winners and refunding losers."

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