Seven jockeys who all received 10-day bans after the London National debacle have all had their suspensions quashed following an independent disciplinary hearing. The riders in question had been deemed to have failed to stop riding having spotted a yellow flag.
The riders in question made the point that they had not been able to see the stop-race flag during the contest on December 7th, bringing into question running such races in the fading daylight at this time of year.
The appeal hearing, at the BHA’s base in London, was chaired by Tim Charlton QC who spoke firmly to say that no jockeys had lied about not seeing the flag, as the light was closing in and the flag itself was not being waved vigorously enough.
The committee concluded that there would be no reason for the jockeys to continue on to the end of the race had they seen the flag, as all would have known this meant the race being void.
The decision of the panel, which criticised Sandown Park for its procedure, means that James Davies, Philip Donovan, Daryl Jacob, Jamie Moore and Adam Wedge are now free to ride over the Christmas period, their bans having been due to start on December 21st.
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What Caused the London National Void Controversy?
Back on Saturday 7th December, Sandown Park was hit with tragedy when, during the 3 mile, 5 furlong London National Handicap Chase at 3.35, popular chaser Houblon Des Obeaux suffered a life-ending heart attack midway through the race and collapsed before what was due to be the penultimate fence later in the contest.
As the horse and rider were being attended to confusion reigned, the yellow ‘stop-race’ flag being deployed by the groundsman just before the third-last fence to attempt to being the race to an abrupt end.
As the race continued, Sandown officials took the decision to stop it as they felt there would not be enough room to safely redirect the remainder of the field around the stricken horse and the people by him, leading to the flag being waved before the field got back to the scene of the incident.
The ideal then, is for the riders to see the flag before the scene and for them to bring the race to a safe stop, avoiding the problem area.
Much to the confusion of those watching, especially at home via TV which makes things appear much clearer, seven jockeys did not stop and instead carried on around the third-last fence, jumped the final two and completed the race.
To do this the jockeys had to steer their mounts around the screens put up next to Houblon Des Obeaux and those with him which is precisely what officials wanted to avoid thus taking their decision, though luckily this was managed without further incident.
Following the “race”, a near half-hour stewards enquiry took place during which time nobody at the track; jockeys, trainers, owners or punters, knew what was happening but ultimately the stewards took the decision to void the race as per the strict rules following the deployment of a yellow flag.
All seven jockeys who completed the race were handed ten-day bans for failing to stop, leading to much criticism of the stewards and the BHA from jockeys and trainers alike, however the point was raised several times in the aftermath that a number of jockeys did see the flag and pulled up safely.