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Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Author: J. A. McGrath
Uproar as Judge Stickels Makes Yet Another Blunder
Judge Jane Stickels called the wrong result at Lingfield Park yesterday, causing mayhem and costing the betting industry an estimated £7 million as many bookmakers found themselves obliged to pay out on two 'winners' in the same race.
It was the fifth time Stickels had made headlines for high-profile 'cock-ups' in the past 12 years and there were immediate calls for her resignation. She was summoned to the stewards room - but the only official reaction was an announcement that the judge had posted the wrong result.
Stickels announced the Andrew Balding-trained Welsh Dragon as the winner, with the John Best-trained Miss Dagger in second. She arrived at her decision swiftly, and when jockeys had stepped on to the scales, the 'weighed in' signal was sempaphored. Under betting rules, bookmakers settle bets on the result as it stands at the time the 'weighed in' is announced. The sequence of events commenced when course commentator Simon Holt stepped into the judge's box and asked Stickels whether she was certain of the result.
Stickels examined the photo again, grabbed her microphone to notify the public of a possible alteration to the result, and then announced her amended version, with Miss Dagger, a 14-1 chance, placed first, and the 9-4 favourite Welsh Dragon second. But it was too late for the betting industry.
Barry Dennis, the high-profile bookmaker threatened to sue Stickels and Lingfield Park while Best said his owners were livid that they could not collect their winnings - around £2,000 - for having backed their winner. It seemed that the prizemoney of £2,388 was not seen as any compensation.
In 1999, Stickels was sent for retraining after making mistakes at Lingfield and Newmarket, and was re-introduced to the job under the supervision of the senior judge. But in 2000, she made headlines - she was dubbed 'Calamity Jane' - after promoting the sixth horse to fourth, instead of the fifth home, when the winner of a race was disqualified.
In 1994, Stickels had declared Absaloms Lady and Large Action dead-heating at Kempton Park, only to later revise her decision, giving the race to Absaloms Lady.
Yesterday's error is now set to be reviewed under the Jockey Club's internal procedures. "A report will be sent in from the Lingfield stewards and then there will be an internal procedure that we will follow to see if any action will be taken," said Jockey Club spokesman Paul Struthers.
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2006.