The Jockey Club will be forced to review its own pre-start operational procedures but it was Brett Prebble and apprentice Alvin Ng Ka-chun who walked away lighter in the pocket after two horses completed their race after jumping out of the wrong gates yesterday at Sha Tin.
Prebble, on Frederick Engels, began the ninth race from barrier seven, one outside Simple (Ng) in six, when the published draw was the other way around and the stewards became aware of the situation before correct weight was declared on the Federation Of Hong Kong Guangdong Community Trophy - the day's main feature race.
The Tony Cruz-trained winner, El Zonda (Matthew Chadwick) won it, overwhelming his rivals in the final 100m but that story was pushed into the background.
"Prior to the announcement of correct weight, the stewards became aware that Simple and Frederick Engels, which were drawn beside one another, had jumped from the wrong gates," said acting chief steward, Steve Railton, but weight was declared after officials investigated the riding instructions for the two horses.
"Apprentice Ng had been instructed to go forward on Simple and cross to the box seat, which he was able to do. Brett Prebble had been instructed to go back and find cover on Fredericks Engels, handy or midfield, and he said the horse had settled in about the position anticipated. So, stewards were of the view that, although the horses did run from the wrong gates, neither horse was advantaged or disadvantaged by it and so weighed-in was declared."
But the matter didn't end there, with both jockeys, the starter Tony McGovern and a number of the club's barrier staff being interviewed after the last race.
"Ultimately, both Prebble and Ng pleaded guilty to negligence and were fined $5,000," said Railton.
"In issuing the fines, stewards were mindful of the mitigating situation, with regards to the part that the barrier attendants played, but both jockeys accepted that under the rule the overriding responsibility is that of the jockey to ensure he goes into the correct gate after the barrier have been called by the starter. There is a procedure to the loading of the gates and it's a good one, probably as good as any in the world, but this shows that errors can still occur and I'm sure we will be looking at the process to see where it can be improved."
El Zonda - part of a double for Chadwick, who had scored on Class Five cellar-dweller Viva Dolphin for Tony Millard earlier in the day - had his own story to tell.
After being considered a Happy Valley specialist for most of his career, the six-year-old has now won twice at Sha Tin in his last three starts.
"He keeps getting better here," said Cruz. "This horse is such a survivor. Three years ago, he came back from a bad foot infection, it looked like we would have to put him down."
El Zonda's trademark late finish saw him too strong for Keen Marie but Chadwick said a better draw had allowed him to have the gelding closer in running.
"He is just a big old honest horse, he got a nice run into the race and he does have that nice turn of foot," Chadwick said.
"He showed there's still some life in those legs, so hopefully he can get another. The plan is to go to the Premier Bowl at the end of the month and with a light weight there, you never know."