British Horseracing Authority chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea has dismissed rumors that race stewards are in a ‘crisis’, despite a former champion jockey claiming recent interference controversies make the sport a ‘laughing stock’ “.
A number of high-profile incidents in recent weeks have highlighted the issue of the race’s reckless and dangerous driving rules, with Free Wind’s win at this month’s Lancashire Oaks causing a huge stir.
Following a reconciliation between winner and jockey Robert Havlin, who kept the race going after an investigation, and Jim Crowley’s mount Eshaada, Havlin was handed a five-day ban only for the BHA to rescind suspension after review.
The BHA has postponed a separate appeal, brought by owners Amo Racing, against the stewards’ decision not to overrule the Norfolk Stakes standings at Royal Ascot, which saw winner The Ridler veer dramatically off the track and led to a 10-day ban. for rider Paul Hanagan.
Former champion jockey Seb Sanders feels the current rules are not a satisfactory deterrent to reckless driving, telling Sky Sports Racing: “We have to find a way to stop them from doing that because there are going to be soon an accident and it could cost the life of a jockey or a horse, why wait for something bad to happen?
“We’re supposed to be the best in the world, but we’re a laughingstock right now.”
Address the issue of Race Debate, Dunshea told Sky Sports Racing that the BHA is open to discussing this, adding: “We have full confidence in our team on the ground who are there day in and day out to make those decisions.
“Specifically in relation to the Havlin case, it demonstrated a very proper and thorough process in that a decision was made the same day, but then there is a system that allows the BHA to review and finally, in this case, to take the decision to cancel the penalty.
“Decision-making is very subjective and the reason we have a panel is to ensure, as best we can, a consistent approach to applying the rules.
Recent interference incidents
Norfolk Stakes (June 16) – Paul Hanagan receives a 10-day ban for winning the race on The Ridler after running through rivals. The winner survives the stewards’ investigation but owners Amo Racing have appealed.
Lancashire Oaks (July 2) – Rab Havlin receives a 5 day ban which is later overturned by the BHA. The winner survives the commissioners’ investigation
Coral-Eclipse (July 2) – Christophe Soumillon receives a 12-day ban for reckless driving during the Vadeni victory celebration. Soumillon appealed
Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes (July 8) – Winner Mawj survives Stewards investigation and runner Ray Dawson receives 3 day ban. Dawson says, “That’s fair enough – we drifted and you need to be punished for it.”
“The stewards who were involved in this particular case had over 50 years of experience between them.
“More than anything else, it’s important to make sure the process is fair. We should never rush decisions and that’s what we encourage our stewards to do.
“There is a deterrent there but the question we have to ask ourselves is: is the deterrent enough to deter jockeys from being a little more careful?
“We have some of the most skilled jockeys in the world and 95% of the time they ride safely and within the rules.”
When asked if the sport’s stewardship and interference rules were in crisis, Dunshea replied: “I don’t think it’s fair to call the current situation a crisis, but of course the BHA is open to sitting down with stakeholders to understand each other’s points of view and make adjustments if necessary.
“Yes, we’ve had a number of issues over the past eight to 12 weeks, but in the previous six months we’ve barely had a call. We have to make sure that when we look at this, we do so. in a thorough manner that ensures we are not reacting to a small number of incidents at this specific time.
“We have to make sure everything we do is fit for our purpose and serves us in every game throughout the year.”
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