Photo-finish posing new challenges for administrators
Two races run last week at two different centres have thrown up a very serious question that horse racing administrators in the country will have to attend to without any delay because if they don't, unrest among professionals and punters who view themselves as victims of a bad decision may reach a flashpoint someday.
On August 4, at Malakpet racecourse in Hyderabad, two horses — Palm Springs & Magical Spell‚ crossed the wire together in PM Bokadawala Memorial Cup. It was a very close finish, even the vertical line drawn on the photo print seemed to be touching the noses of both the horses.
But the judge ruled Palm Springs as the winner because the digital camera’s software displayed time of 1:28.095 for Palm Springs, and 1:28.096 for Magical Spell, a difference of one thousandth of a second.
Four days later on August 9, the same thing happened in Bangalore when a photo finish verdict between Paras Mani & Perfect Soul in the Leading Owner Cup was resolved in favour of the former — who was adjudged winner by two thousandth of a second again, though the line drawn on the print looked like touching noses of both the horses.
However, there was one thing different in the Bangalore episode. Neil Darashah, trainer of Perfect Soul who was adjudged as loser, did something that was definitely unprecedented in the history of Indian racing‚ and perhaps world racing too.
He lodged a protest not for a foul against the winning horse or the winning rider, but against the judge’s decision. In Neil’s opinion, his horse Perfect Soul had not lost, and the judge should have declared a dead-heat.
“I saw the print, and felt it was impossible to tell which horse had won, both horses' noses looked like touching the line drawn by the judge so I was within my rights to lodge a protest against the decision,” Neil Darashah told MiD DAY over the phone.
However, Neil’s objection was overruled, and rather quickly too, not by deliberating on the point he had raised about the photo print and the line drawn by the judge, but solely on the ground that the timing generated by the camera software implied that Paras Mani had crossed the wire first by a microscopic margin of two thousandth parts of a second!
The Bangalore stewards failed to grasp the gravity of the point raised by Neil Darashah. In this game where crores of rupees are bet on the nose of a horse, it’s not just a question of giving a “technically” right decision, but also giving a believable, and more importantly, a “verifiable” verdict.
The bettors don’t understand high tech software or how it functions they want to see, on television screens, with their own eyes, the photo finish shot with its mirror image so that they can confirm for themselves that the lines are properly drawn and are perfectly vertical, and that both the horses' lines (connecting the nose of a horse and its mirror image) can be seen as “distinct”, “separate” and “perfectly parallel” lines.