There is so much to write about in what has been an eventful week.
There is one story which almost slipped through the net last Thursday and that concerns an appeal by Kieren Fox in relation to a four day ban he received for weighing in 1½lbs light at a Kempton meeting on 19th September.
Custom and practice has dictated the jockey and the jockey alone is responsible for ensuring he carries the correct weight throughout the race. Yet, as soon as he weighs out the jockey hands his saddle to the trainer or head lad so the horse can be saddled. He will not see the saddle again until he sees the horse in the parade ring.
Aided by his very eloquent boss, John Best, the appeal panel found in Fox’s favour stating, “that there was not motive, opportunity nor evidence that Kieren Fox was responsible for the loss of 1½lb lead which was found to be missing on weighing in.”
It is a very wise and sensible decision . . . how can a jockey be held responsible when the saddle is out of his direct control?
Let me say there is absolutely no question of nefarious goings on in this case and the likelihood is the weight accidentally dropped out of the saddle cloth as it was being carried from the weighing room to the saddling area.
However this decision of the disciplinary panel must result in a change to presumption that the jockey is presumed responsible, even when the saddle is out of his control.
If not the only solution I can see is the jockey is made to carry the saddle to the saddling area himself and he watches the saddling process himself, somehow I cannot see the likes of Fallon and Dettori doing that.
When I fly, for example, I am quite happy to accept responsibility for what is in my baggage up until the point I check it in. Thereafter I would not expect to be held responsible for anything added or taken from my bag.
It was a busy day for the disciplinary panel last Thursday as also before them were Jack Mitchell and Franny Norton.
Jack Mitchell was before the panel for having traces of benzoylecgonine, a diagnostic metabolite of cocaine and a banned substance in his urine. In other words it indicated he had taken some cocaine in the previous 48 hours. To his credit Mitchell admitted the offence and was very contrite in his submission to the panel.
Norton was appearing before the panel after he failed a breath test for alcohol at Chester in May, indeed the alcohol reading was at a level higher than the allowed limit for driving.
Mitchell was banned for six months, Norton for 40 days.
Both bans are perverse and wrong.
Yes Mitchell was stupid and I am in no way condoning the taking of illegal drugs and what he did was wrong. Yes there were traces of benzoylecgonine in his urine but the actual taking of the cocaine may well have been 48 hours earlier so his ability to ride would not have been impaired that greatly, if at all. Yes he needs to be punished but a six month ban is excessive. If Mitchell’s assertion that this was a one off is accepted, and there is no reason to doubt what he said, then a shorter ban plus attendance at a drug rehabilitation program at his own expense should be sufficient deterrent.
Mitchell is young and youngsters make mistakes, draconian punishments for such mistakes are excessive. To deny somebody of their livelihood for six months for using seems harsh. Firstly when you consider the police, automatically give a caution for a first offence.
Secondly the dealers, who are far more culpable than the users, receive an average sentence of 3 years 3 months and a £167 fine (of course that means they will 19 months in reality).
Turning to Norton he was about to ride a horse whilst over the permitted limit for alcohol – in other words he was drunk. He judgement must have been impaired and he was potentially a danger to himself, his mounts and to other riders. Especially at a tight turning course like Chester.
Yet he was handed a ban of forty days.
I’m sorry but I consider turning up at a racecourse drunk, potentially endangering other riders to be far more serious than Mitchell’s offence.
Norton does not even have the excuse of youth, he is 41 years old and should know better.
Whilst some mitigation factors can be made for Mitchell, none can be made for Norton.
As a footnote it is worth noting Norton was found guilty of having benzoylecgonine in his urine in 2003 and he only received a four month ban.
Finally the normally dependable Stewart Machin made an uncharacteristic mistake when calling the wrong winner at Warwick on Monday afternoon, Mistaking Rio’s Girl for the very similarly coloured Straboe. I was at Warwick and I can say the professional man that he is Stewart was absolutely shocked and devastated at the mistake he made.
The press room can be the cruellest place at times but even the most cynical hacks, and there were some at Warwick yesterday, were so taken aback at Stewart’s reaction that all offered him words of encouragement and not the extreme micky taking I’m sure he was expecting. The reaction from the guys in the press room indicates the respect we have for Stewart’s commentating.
Of course there was the inevitable verbal diarrhoea being spouted on Betfair, although to be fair it wasn’t as bad as it can be when we get the race mistakes from commentators.
Apparently one punter lost some £38k on Rio’s Girl based of Stewart’s call and many posters were rallying to that punters cause.
Sorry I have no sympathy for the punter at all, indeed I would actually go as far as to say he actually deserves to lose the money.
No commentator, no matter how good he is, is infallible and to rely on a third party when risking such sums of money is insanely stupid.
Also is there not a perverse contradiction here. Stewart is being criticised for mis-identifying two horses, yet the defenders of the punter are not criticising him, yet he too clearly failed to identify the two horses.
No wonder the Betfair forum is considered such a joke.