Officiating mistake yields different Goat Race champion

Photo of Jixxer finishing first at the 2014 Sly Fox Goat Race. Photo courtesy of Heidi Evans.

EAST PIKELAND — Even in the high stakes, super-serious world of goat racing, mistakes are made.

Although Jixxer crossed the finish line first Sunday in the finals of the 2014 Goat Races at Sly Fox’s annual Bockfest, a judging error led to competitor Spartacus being named the ultimate winner.

“When Ron (Detwiler Jr., Jixxer’s handler) hit the finish line, they told him he was first and told him to wait right there,” said Heidi Evans, the president of Recycled Tails, a non-profit animal rescue that owns Jixxer. “A minute later they were announcing a different goat as the winner. We feel that someone got our goat confused with Spartacus.”

It seems like they did.

“It wasn’t until a full team of judges was assembled to review the photo finish and newly available video footage that we realized a mistake had been made,” said Brian O’Reilly, Sly Fox’s brewmaster who emcees the races, according to a release posted to the brewery’s website. “Our finish line official, a judge we have employed at this position for more than a decade, made a critical and, for him, uncharacteristic error.”

Video taken by The Phoenix’s sister paper, The Mercury, appears to show a tight pack of three vying for first at the finish line with Spartacus trailing just behind them.

The champion of the annual goat races gets the year’s special Maibock named after them. In the aftermath of the race, Spartacus was brought on stage where Emil Schanta’s polka band was performing for the tapping of the brew.

Evans said when the Sly Fox personnel realized their mistake, they told her they couldn’t do anything initially, but that they’d do something about it the next day.

To make good, O’Reilly determined that he will make a special brew in honor of Jixxer and invite the goat “as guest of honor” to the debut of it.

“We really regret that this happened and we will employ every means necessary to make certain that it doesn’t happen ever again,” O’Reilly said.

A step toward that may have already been taken.

“We cannot tolerate less than perfection in an event this important and, as Bock Fest Commissioner, my office will be conducting a swift and comprehensive review of all race officials,” O’Reilly said in the release.

That investigation proved truly swift, as it had been resolved by the end of the press release, three paragraphs later.

“At press time, it was learned that the finish line official had been revoked of his duties for all future competitions, and was downgraded to trash and recycling collection for the 2015 Sly Fox Brewing Company Bock Festival and Goat Races. There was no word yet on whether the National Goat Race Officials Union planned to appeal this decision,” the release concluded, tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.