DORSET trainer Harry Fry questioned the race schedule at Cheltenham after mare Ishkhara Lady was denied a narrow victory over Elle Est Belle.

With the 3.55pm race the last of seven on Saturday, light conditions were poor amid heavy rain and with sundown fast approaching.

Ishkhara Lady appeared to get a nose in front of Elle Est Belle, only for officials to declare a dead heat with the gloomy official photo difficult to decipher.

Speaking to ITV Racing, Fry said: “I think the owners are delighted to have won – I think it’s safe to say (Ishkhara Lady) didn’t lose the race.

“From the owners’ point of view there’s no appetite to appeal, however I can understand where punters are coming from.

“We are a professional sport and the judges’ decision, the referee, the umpire, has to be taken as final sometimes.

“As a professional sport we need to look at ourselves and ask ourselves questions.

“Should a race be allowed to go off at that time of day where light conditions deteriorate so much that the judge is unable to call the photo, which then leads on to the question: ‘Has the judge got the equipment that’s available for him to make an informed decision?’”

He added: “It’s just a shame there is controversy surrounding it but hopefully lessons can be learned and we can make the right decisions moving forward.”

Meanwhile, officials will consult with the British Horseracing Authority to try and prevent a repeat of the issues.

Clerk of the course Simon Claisse is keen to avoid a carbon copy of the situation if possible.

“The judge can only do so much in those conditions,” he said.

“We’ll be looking to see if there’s anything we can do to help minimise the risk to stop these things happening.

“Our race schedule is really based around ITV and we’re very lucky to have them here – it’s not the simple matter of starting earlier and getting the racing under way and finished before sunset.

“At the minute the rules say 15 minutes before sundown, which was 4.18pm yesterday, so we were in plenty of time. It was just one of those unfortunate sets of circumstances when it turned very dark because of the heavy rain.”

Claisse said there are a number of issues preventing them from just starting at an earlier time.

He told Racing TV: “There are all sorts of factors to bear in mind and betting turnover increases throughout the afternoon. It’s not as simple as saying ‘why don’t you start earlier’.

“We’ll take a look at it with the British Horseracing Authority in the weeks to come. If there’s anything we can do to reduce the risk of these things happening, we’ll certainly look at it.

“The race times are set by the BHA, in conjunction with the racecourses, but if we started earlier, someone else would be going later, so you may end up just pushing the issue from one racecourse to another.”