The blink of an eye can be all it takes to miss it, so is it surprising that there is the odd suspect result in point-to-points? I am, of course, talking about close finishes or what under British Horseracing Authority rules might be termed a photo finish.
It is unquestioned that our sport has developed substantially over the past 20 years, as we embrace the concept of “semi-professionalism”. But some traditions remain unchanged, such as how we decipher the results of point-to-point races.
To the average person, a group of well-dressed bowler-clad personnel peering over the side of a farm trailer probably appears odd. But park it in a field next to some ropes and run a series of horses past it and the sight is commonplace.
The role of “judge” at a point-to-point is as important as any and arguably more so. Be you owner, trainer, breeder, rider, punter or other, you rely on that individual to accurately say what they see.
The implications of an incorrect decision can be significant. Seeing your horse cross the line upsides a battling rival and thinking it has just prevailed, only to be called second, can be heartbreaking.
Furthermore, any such spurious call can cost a punter their next big stake or an owner their premium at the next horses-in-training sale.
As a rider you have a good sense of whether you have won. I can recall a handful of occasions over the years where I have felt aggrieved by the judge’s decision. That said, I have had my fair share of favourable calls, so I cannot complain.
Where point-to-pointing is concerned, we must remember the role of judge is an art as opposed to a science.
In the event of a disputed result and in the heat of the moment, this can often be forgotten, but we must always remember that the judge’s result is final.