Racing: Crack of the whip costly for Maguire

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Someone needs to tell Adrian Maguire that it's only a number. Maguire travelled to Wetherby yesterday still searching for the single winner which would take him into four figures for his career in Britain. He left still stuck on 999, and with a six-day riding ban for striking his fellow jockey J P McNamara across the back with his whip after going down to a narrow defeat in a two-mile novices' hurdle.

Oddly enough, Maguire was riding a horse called Inching Closer in the race, and looked for much of the contest to have his elusive 1,000th winner in his grasp. But his mount found little under pressure, allowing McNamara and Benbyas to catch him in the shadow of the post, and a few strides later Maguire struck out with his whip. There appeared to be an angry exchange of words between the two riders as they returned to unsaddle.

The stewards decided that Maguire was guilty of improper riding, and banned him from 7 December to 13 December. The most important of those days is 8 December, Saturday week, which features the William Hill Handicap Hurdle and Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, and the Rehearsal Chase at Chepstow. "It is the minimum recommended penalty," Phil Tuck, the stewards' secretary, said. "He was found guilty of improper riding under rule 153iii in that he struck JP McNamara on the back with his whip."

Maguire had already been beaten on a warm favourite, Diamond Joshua in the card's juvenile hurdle, before yesterday's incident. His next chances to get the four-figure monkey off his back come in the first two events at Carlisle today, when he rides the unbeaten Ice for Steve Kettlewell in the novices' hurdle, and Ferdy Murphy's Ernest William in the novices' chase. Both face strongly fancied runners from Len Lungo's yard, however, and with only two more rides on the card, Maguire's miserable run may continue for another 24 hours at least.

A jockey with more to celebrate at Wetherby yesterday was Norman Williamson, who rode a double on Turgeonev and Silver Streak, and heard that he had been booked to ride Ad Hoc, last year's Whitbread Gold Cup winner, in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday.

"We are delighted that a jockey of the calibre of Norman is available to ride Ad Hoc and we are very much looking forward to a big run," Barry Simpson, racing manager to Sir Robert Ogden, said. Williamson is believed to have been offered an alternative ride on Behrajan, but it now seems likely that Mark Bradburne will take the reins on Henry Daly's six-year-old.

Ad Hoc was unchanged at 6-1 for the Hennessy with the Tote and Ladbrokes yesterday, but the sustained run on Take Control continued, with Coral suggesting that he could displace Montifault as favourite by the time the field sets off on Saturday. Take Control is 4-1 from 5-1 with that firm, and 7-2 from 9-2 with Ladbrokes, who also report money for the front-running Grey Abbey, in to 12-1 from 16-1.

Grey Abbey was one of the principal beneficiaries from Marlborough's removal from the race on Monday, and after an 8lb rise in the weights, Finbarr Murtagh's runner will line up just 3lb adrift of the handicap proper.

Murtagh, 34, who has held a licence for five years, will be saddling his first runner in such an important race. "We were delighted to see Marlborough come out, but we were delighted to see Beau come out too, because he likes to front-run too," Murtagh said yesterday. "We don't necessarily have to be in front, but he likes to be up with the pace and if they leave him alone, all the better."

Grey Abbey won a Grade Two novices' chase at Ayr in April, and a handicap at the same track this month, the first time he has ever opened his account for the season before Christmas. "He's definitely a horse who gets better as you get a few runs into him," Murtagh says. "He seems to be getting better with every race and I think he's got a real chance. The reason he goes to Ayr so often is that they've normally got a race for him, and I wouldn't be at all worried about him going round Newbury. As long as it's left-handed, he won't worry."

At the other end of the handicap, the weights look set to be headed by the Henrietta Knight-trained Lord Noelie, while Ted Walsh yesterday confirmed that he will be saddling the Racing Post Chase runner-up Commanche Court, ridden by his son Ruby. "He has gone the right way since his run at Navan and we will have a crack at the Hennessy," Walsh Snr said. "It's a help having 11st 10lb instead of 12st, but not much."