Racing: Fanning and Dalgleish escape bans over alcohol

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The Independent Online

An inquiry is to be conducted into the penalties for drink riding following the escape from punishment yesterday for two jockeys who were under the influence of alcohol on the racecourse.

Keith Dalgleish and Joe Fanning both tested positive after breath and urine samples were taken on separate occasions at Redcar last year, yet both escaped with just a caution at the Jockey Club yesterday. The rules are unlikely to be so lenient in future.

The two Northern-based jockeys gave alcohol readings of between 54 and 108 milligrams per 100 millilitres, the upper figure being the legal limit for driving. Had either produced a reading of above 108mg, he would have faced a recommended suspension of up to one month.

The existing punishments were laid down by the Jockey Club after racing's rules body switched the testing for prohibited substances from UK Sport to Medscreen last July. Changes are in the offing.

"During our processing of these cases, a few issues have come up which we need to address," John Maxse, for the Jockey Club, said yesterday. "The protocol at the moment says for a first offence below that upper limit but above our own positive they only get a caution. They've got off, but that's what the protocol says.

"I can understand people's [surprised] view on that. In processing these two positives, the first two that we have had with Breathalyzers, a couple of areas have been highlighted which we will be looking to tighten up. A caution may well remain an option, but there may be a bit more discretion about whether each case deserves a caution. "

Maxse added: "It is fair to say that we might look at more stringent penalties, and possibly a greater level of discretion for the disciplinary panel."

There will also be movement on the number of samples taken and the speed with which miscreants are brought to justice. Having failed his test at Redcar on 15 September, Dalgleish's case took more than three months to be heard, while Fanning gave his positive sample at the same track on 3 November. Both riders were stood down for the rest of that day on the grounds of safety.

"I am just pleased to get it out of the way. It's been hanging over me for a while," Dalgleish said as he left the brief hearing.

His sentiments echoed those of Fanning, who was equally relieved to have the matter put to rest. "I am happy to have got just a caution," he said. "I don't want to say too much about it. All I want to do now is to put it behind me, move on and look forward to riding as many winners as I can."

Fanning's solicitor, Andrew Chalk, added: "Joe readily admitted to a breach of the rules and co-operated with the Jockey Club throughout. It must not be forgotten that a breach can occur at a very low level. Joe has learned from the experience and that, coupled with his low reading, indicated that a caution was clearly the appropriate penalty. The same was true in the case of Keith Dalgleish."

A total of 383 tests were taken in the last six months of 2003 and the ambition is to step that number up to 1,000 during 2004. In addition, the investigative process will be abbreviated from the splitting and separate analysis of samples - the course currently in place for drug tests. It is hoped cases can now be brought before a panel within two or three weeks.

The enduring brilliance of Pat Eddery was also advertised at Portman Square yesterday, when the Irishman registered yet another Group One victory - two months after his retirement.

Over 30 years after his first success at the highest level, Eddery added to his tally when Balmont was promoted to first place in the Middle Park Stakes on the disqualification of Three Valleys. The latter lost the race at a Jockey Club disciplinary panel hearing after failing a drugs test.

Three Valleys, trained by Roger Charlton, is one of the leading contenders for Classic honours this year after a two-year-old campaign in which he won two Group races: the Middle Park and the Group Three Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.

However, after the colt had won the Newmarket feature, he tested positive for clenbuterol, a drug used under the trade name Ventipulmin to clear up a lung infection and aid normal breathing. Charlton maintained that he followed all the correct procedures in its administration, but the Beckhampton trainer was found in breach of Rule 53 and fined £600.

In mitigation, Charlton said Three Valleys had been withdrawn from treatment nine days before the 3 October race, which was more than the six-and-a-half-day detection period laid down by international veterinary guidelines.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Cooldine King

(Ludlow 3.30)

NB: Harris Bay

(Ludlow 4.00)

Hussar ready for return

Irish Hussar, a 40-1 outsider for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, is nearing a comeback after a spell on the easy list following his disappointing run when a 5-1 joint-favourite in the Hennessy Gold Cup.

"We've had to do his shins for what must be the hundredth time," his trainer, Nicky Henderson, said yesterday. "But I'm pleased to say he's ready to start fast work again and there's still plenty of the season left."

* Tickets for the Grandstand on Gold Cup day at Royal Ascot have sold out in record time, just three and a half days after going on sale. The quick sell-out beats last year's time of seven days.

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