Dunwoody's title in jeopardy RACING: A 30-day suspension opens up the race for the jump jockeys' championshi p, but on the Flat one contender is put in the clear

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The Independent Online
Richard Dunwoody's intentional barging of Luke Harvey at Uttoxeter 13 days ago has put the retention of his riders' title in danger. The champion jockey was yesterday banned for 30 days for his misdemeanours and he will almost certainly be playin g catch-up with Adrian Maguire when he returns.

Dunwoody bows out on Saturday, and one of the first big rides he will miss is Fortune And Fame in the Irish Champion Hurdle on Sunday. A leave of absence up to 19 February could cost him anything up to 30 winners and £20,000 in lost riding fees and winning percentages.

It is widely anticipated he will use some of the time to go on a skiing holiday, during which time he may care to consider that he has now twice put the safety of a fellow rider in peril.

It was at Nottingham last March that the Ulsterman first gave strong note that he does not like fellow athletes creeping between his mounts and the inside rail. Maguire, the victim then, was forced through the wing of a hurdle; Dunwoody was banned duringthe Cheltenham Festival for his recklessness, but later rallied to retain the championhsip he had won for the first time the previous season.

This incident must surely have been in the minds of the Jockey Club's Disciplinary Committee members when they were yesterday asked to consider Dunwoody's riding at Uttoxeter. There, the champion's mount, G'Ime A Buzz, twice collided with the Luke Harvey-ridden Wadswick Country as the latter tried to negotiate a passage up the inside.

Dunwoody's sentencing at Portman Square had all the usual hallmarks of a high-profile Jockey Club inquiry. As the media pack waited in the foyer, Dunwoody sprinted though the basement labyrinth as skilfully as any sewer rat. David Pipe, spokesman for theJockey Club, then emerged with a standard look of puzzlement as to how the accused could have got away.

Dunwoody, who was 31 yesterday, had more pressing engagements, notably seven rides at Windsor. After finishing down the field in the first on Rex To The Rescue he emerged mud-spattered and sheepish for what had been billed as a press statement. It turnedout to be little more than a press sentence.

"I really want to let the dust settle after what has happened this morning," he said. "I want to absorb what has happened before I give consideration to whether I make an appeal."

Later, however, there was an addition. "I'm very disappointed by the penalty that has been imposed," he said. "But there are a lot worse things going on in the world than getting a 30-day suspension.

"You've got to look at these things positively. I'm going down to Martin Pipe's in the morning and will then be riding at Taunton."

Also at Windsor, Harvey said: "I wish it had never happened because the last thing I wanted was to see him banned. But the rules are there, there are set guidelines and they were broken. You have to hold your hands up and pay the penalty for that."

This particular penalty was the most severe of the modern era for interference, eclipsing Graham McCourt's 28 days in 1986. It means that Dunwoody, whose first riding ban was on Boxing Day 1983, now joins an index much-loved by emerging pop groups but despised by jockeys: the top 10. He creeps in at No 10 in the list of those receiving long sentences, just behind Graham Bradley and Declan Murphy, but some way adrift of Billy Newnes, who has been top of the charts for some years now owing to his three-year ban for passing on information to a bookmaker.

William Hill now make Dunwoody 1-2 (from 1-4) for the title, while Maguire is 6-4 (from 5-2). The latter was at Ludlow yesterday and said: "It's not anything to do with me but it gives me a small chance of getting back into the firing line."

Maguire pulled a winner back, his 94th of the season, to trail by 18. Dunwoody drew a blank and may have ended a dispiriting day portentously when he was beaten in the last on the favourite, Fools Errand. Perhaps an appeal is not a good idea.