Racing: Jockeys fail to receive signal for phones talks

No puffs of white smoke were visible yesterday above the Jockey Club's London headquarters in Portman Square. A solution to racing's current embarrassment, the stand-off between the sport's regulators and riders over the use of mobile phones on courses, is yet in sight and the threat of a second boycott of meetings by militant reinsmen today week is still in the air.

After Sandown was called off on Sunday because of their strike action, the jockeys are waiting for the Jockey Club to make the next move. Yesterday there was the faintly ludicrous scenario of Michael Caulfield and John Blake, who will succeed him as chief executive of the riders' representative body, the Jockeys Association, at the end of next week, lurking in a café within hailing distance of the Portman Square building in the hope of a summons.

The men were there anyway, attending routine meetings, but the call to discuss the higher-profile problem never came. "Although it may seem comical in context, my mobile was switched on all day," Caulfield said. "And I have to say, after such a momentous weekend, it was fairly dispiriting that it never rang."

The ban on use of mobiles in weighing rooms, imposed since the start of the month, is part of a security crackdown by the Jockey Club in the wake of courtroom revelations about the leakage of information. The riders largely accept the need for integrity in their sport and are happy for monitored "phone zones" to be introduced. But they wish for their mobiles to be constantly on, so that calls from trainers or agents can be attended to instantly. The Jockey Club want them off, and that one small area is the sticking point.

"We want to talk," added Caulfield. "It is not as if we are stalling over further discussions. This sort of thing is doing the image of racing no good and we want to resolve it and get back to normal. There is actually a huge amount of common ground between us over integrity; in a 92-page document we agree with 91 pages."

Discussions last week between Caulfield's side, including the champion jumps rider, Tony McCoy, and the Jockey Club's heavyweights - Senior Steward Julian Richmond-Watson, Director of Regulation Malcolm Wallace and Chief Executive Christopher Foster - broke up acrimoniously.

"We were not impressed with the attitude we faced," Caulfield said. "It would have helped if we had been treated like adults, but there still seems to be a certain mindset. It's not so much that we were treated like serfs; serfs would not have been happy.

"I think what is required now is a leap of faith and we are asking the Jockey Club to jump with us, trust us. There may well be loss of face but it will be on both sides; I've admitted I called it wrongly, and that is what compromise is about. To put it in our terms, we may have been slowly away but they burst through the tapes and are ignoring the recall flag."

By yesterday evening no further meeting had been planned between the two parties. "We are looking at our options," John Maxse, the Jockey Club's PR man, said. "We've made offers and are willing to talk further, but we'd like an indication that there is something new on the table."

Racing in brief: Sheikh Mohammed buys Guineas winner Refuse To Bend

* Refuse To Bend, the 2,000 Guineas winner, has been purchased by Sheikh Mohammed to stand as a stallion at Darley Stud. The Sadler's Wells colt, trained by Dermot Weld, will be leased back to his previous owners, Walter Haefner's Moyglare Stud, to run in the Breeders' Cup Mile. No decision has yet been made as to whether the colt will stay in training as a four-year-old.

* Kieren Fallon has been booked to ride the ante-post gamble Hit's Only Money in the Ayr Gold Cup on Saturday. The Paul Blockley-trained three-year-old was originally priced at around 25-1 for the £100,000 handicap but has been backed down to as short as 7-1 in some books.

Blockley also intends to run Hidden Dragon, his Great St Wilfrid Handicap winner, in the Ayr showpiece for which there were 155 declared at yesterday's five-day stage. The race has a safety limit of 28 and those eliminated may be nominated at the 48-hour declaration stage for entry into the Silver Cup on Friday.

* Suggestive, a comfortable five-length winner at odds of 1-8 at Musselburgh yesterday for the William Haggas stable, could be back in action on Saturday in the Listed Dubai Duty Free Cup at Newbury, in which he finished third last year.

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