Racing’s ruling body is to review the process by which it approves racehorse names after a runner was allowed to compete under the name of a racial slur.
The horse, named Jungle Bunny, raced in a low-profile contest at Wolverhampton on Saturday, having been missed by officials at the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) who are supposed to prevent offensive and inappropriate names being used.
Followers of the sport took to social media to say they were “gobsmacked” by the “unforgivable” naming and attempted to call it to the BHA’s attention before the race. However, she took part under the name and went on to finish sixth on her debut. The TV commentator, Derek Thompson, gave the horse no mention during the race.
Two hours later, the BHA acknowledged on Twitter that the filly’s name was “deeply offensive and should not have been permitted. It was not picked up by the team responsible for filtering names. This is a human process and this was a human error. We will be having the horse renamed at the earliest opportunity and apologise for offence caused.”
The BHA confirmed on Sunday that the horse had been renamed at their insistence and is now called Jungle Bells. Online form records of Saturday’s race are to be amended to show that name.
A spokesperson said: “We reiterate the apology that was issued after the horse ran. Racist language is not tolerated in our sport, whether intentional or accidental. We are opposed to racism and prejudice in all its forms and are committed to making British racing an open, diverse and inclusive industry that is welcoming to all.
“We are deeply concerned as to how this happened and are reviewing the processes for approving the names of racehorses,” the spokesperson concluded.
There was no word as to whether disciplinary action would be taken against whoever submitted the name. Emma Evans, the wife of the horse’s owner-trainer David Evans, said the naming had been an innocent mistake deriving from the name of the filly’s sire, Bungle Inthejungle.
“David’s daughter gave us the horse and there’s a computer game called Jungle Bunny Run, which her son loves playing,” Evans said. “I just thought, that’ll do. I had no idea. It was completely innocent and that is the gospel truth.
“None of the staff said anything, nobody else said anything and I’m totally flabbergasted,” she added. “I’m upset because we’ve had our Sunday ruined by everybody ringing about it. It makes you look like a racist, which I am certainly not.”