New season starts badly for racecourse

WETHERBY’S new hurdle season started in controversy after nine jockeys were hit with a 10-day suspension for failing to stop after a race had been voided.

The seven race programme on Wednesday saw 16-times champion jockey Tony McCoy, who was riding Sharadiyn in the Betfair Supports Spinal Research Handicap Hurdle, punished when he and eight other riders ignored a member of the groundstaff waving a yellow flag, which denotes a race should be stopped.

Head groundsman Ian Ward attempted to void the race as the stricken Ashburton Lad was lying between the third-last and the penultimate hurdle.

Ward was working within his remit, but nine jockeys still finished the race, with Cunning Clarets, ridden by Brian Hughes, first past the post.

The offending riders – Hughes, McCoy, Graham Lee, Danny Cook, Denis O’Regan, Alex Voy, Jonathon Bewley, Paddy Brennan and Brian Toomey - will be sidelined between October 26 to November 4.

Dougie Costello’s mount, Favours Brave, pulled up, the Tom Messenger-ridden Glorybe refused to race, while Campbell Gillies was on Ashburton Lad. Costello, Messenger and Gillies therefore escaped any punishment.

The suspended jockeys will miss the Charlie Hall meeting back at Wetherby on October 29.

Wetherby racecourse chief executive Jonjo Sanderson spoke to the Wetherby News yesterday, Thursday. He said: “Fiona (Needham, clerk of the course) was trying to contact Ian Ward, our head groundsman, on the walkie-talkie.”

“Unfortunately, for some reason Ian could not hear her.

“Ian was concerned that the runners would not be able to get past the stricken horse and he made a judgment call.

“In his roll as head groundsman he is well within his rights to make such a call.

“He was in the correct place and was waving his yellow flag and blowing a whistle.

“It is in his remit to make such a decision. He has held his current position for over 30 years. Ian has not made a mistake, it was a judgment call.

“A set of circumstances had prevailed and that was the correct decision at that time.”

The stewards also held a further enquiry into why the stop-race flag had been deployed, but forwarded their evidence on to the British Horseracing Authority.