Pat Eddery, the 10-times champion jockey, was given a seven-day ban yesterday for his fifth riding offence of the season, which means he will be back for York's Ebor meeting.
The Irishman appeared at the Jockey Club yesterday to explain his tactics at Newmarket last month, when his mount Inquisitor squeezed up horses on his inside. The stewards on the day deemed this to be irresponsible riding, but a three-man panel at Portman Square yesterday ruled that the stewards on the day were wrong. They found Eddery, who is currently serving a 19-day ban, guilty of the lesser charge of careless riding. His new suspension begins on Saturday, which means he will be able to squeeze in a meeting at the Newmarket scene of the latest crime tomorrow and Deauville on Sunday (as suspensions apply only to days when racing is staged in Britain) before he packs his bags for Yorkshire.
Considering the Jockey Club has made much play of the crackdown on errant riders, this was something of an unexpectedly lenient penalty. Unlike other arbitrators, it seems the men of Portman Square are not guided by the track record of miscreants. The mentality is far removed from America's three (or in this case five) strikes and you are out.
"There is no set figure under the topping-up procedures where there are multiple offences. You don't simply get more and more days," David Pipe, the Jockey Club spokesman, said. "Each case is dealt with separately. Because it is a third or fourth offence they [the stewards] would add something on to recognise that fact, but it doesn't just keep going up and up.
"The stewards on the day at Newmarket believed Eddery had set out on a manoeuvre but it was decided this morning that was not the case."
Eddery himself sported a smile and a tan which has been developed by holidays in the Isle of Wight and on the Costa del Sol at Marbella. The jockey said he was delighted and played his part in the happy racing family theme of the day by praising the panel for their perspicacity. "I've been in this position five times now this season so I'll have to be a little more cautious," he said. "The stewards are not being over-zealous and I certainly don't think they are picking on me. There were so many accidents last year that I'm sure they are doing the right thing. I had a very fair hearing and I'm very pleased with the way it went."
Eddery has had a barren season by his standards this year, his first for many years as a freelance following the termination of his contract with Khalid Abdullah. He has ridden 71 winners so far this campaign, and by the time he arrives at York he is likely to be down in seventh place in the jockeys' championship.
Eddery is one of 15 riders who have been pinpointed as a persistent offender by the Jockey Club. There are currently 275 licensed jockeys and, from 1 January to 31 July, 90 of them had committed at least one offence. This added up to 512 days of bans, with 15 jockeys having accumulated 10 or more days of suspension. A sixth of the riders who have offended account for 48 per cent of the total number of ban days.
n Mark Baird was banned for five days by the Brighton stewards yesterday for irresponsible riding on Prima Silk, who was demoted from third in the third race, behind Walnut Burl and Samsolom.