Henrietta Knight and Timmy Murphy lost twice in one race at Towcester earlier this month when Harringay ran a stinker and the pair were then fined £1,000 and banned for 14 days respectively under a "non-triers" rule. Yesterday, though, they won the big one, on appeal at the Jockey Club, and their punishments were lifted.
Lord Rathcreedan, the chairman of the disciplinary panel, said Harringay had not been ridden to obtain the best possible placing, but, in the circumstances, Murphy's decision on how to ride the horse was not unreasonable. The jockey said he heard his mount making a choking noise. "I'm very happy. It's the right decision," Murphy said.
It had not been a good week for Knight. The Towcester fine came two days after Best Mate's death at Exeter. Yesterday felt better.
"I am very pleased and relieved to have had my name cleared," she said. "I would not have been at all happy if the appeal had not been successful. I always try to do the best for my horses and will continue to do so in the future."
It is not a pretty race to watch, the prosaic FreeTips@gg.com Mares' Only National Hunt Novices' Hurdle. Harringay, the well-backed 9-4 second favourite, travelled well and jumped similarly for much of the contest, but was never seen in the front rank. Eventually, after the last, she ran on gently under perfunctory encouragement from the saddle. It was the sort of quiet run which would have had shop punters launching their balled betting slips at the bank of televisions.
What no one knew at the time, though, was that Murphy would return with that favourite of all jockey get-outs, the revelation that the horse gurgled. Only this time it seemed to be true. Harringay possesses a history of breathing problems and her jockey reported he felt her go again on the run to the third last. Observing protocol, he alerted officials to the problem on his return.
Patrick Russell, for the Jockey Club, said the fact of Murphy's unusual stillness in the saddle was not disputed by anyone. "This appeal is over the reason for the quiet ride," he said.
It became distilled to a question of the rectitude of the most famous woman trainer and perhaps the most naturally talented horseman around.
Veterinary evidence was taken from Geoffrey Lane for the defence, an expert in equine respiratory disorders in the upper airways, and, for the Jockey Club, Safia Barakzai of Edinburgh University, who used to be a student of Lane's.
It was Lane who had performed surgery to Harringay, including work on her soft palate and other areas affecting her breathing. It was Lane who witnessed his work failing. "About 60-65 per cent [of the operations] have a successful outcome, but that then means that 35-40 per cent have a disappointing outcome," he said. "Sadly I have to accept that this surgery has apparently failed."
Barakzai gave evidence that Harringay would not have been damaged if Murphy had forced the mare to greater effort. "It is not compromising the welfare of the horse," she said. "The horse is not going to collapse. It will simply fall back."
Punters were not the only figures aghast by Harringay's display. "Initially I was disappointed," Knight added. "I had told Timmy to conserve her strength and get a nice rhythm into her breathing."
It was Knight's breathing which changed when she was asked to appear before the stewards. "I was very, very disappointed," she said. "We don't run our horses like that at all. We run them the best possible way. It has never happened to me before a case like this."
Murphy, who eventually finished fifth on Harringay, said: "That is the closest I could have finished. She was making a noise and I gave her every chance to get home. If a horse is gurgling and you don't give it a chance you will end up pulling up. I wouldn't have even got to the last if I had put her under pressure. I stand by the way I rode her.
"I don't care how much an owner has had on a horse, I don't care how much a trainer has on or the public. It is the horse's best interests which matter for me. If the same thing happened tomorrow I would do the same thing again."
Harringay has already proved a dangerous horse for Knight and Murphy and will continue to be dangerous for punters as she is to be given one more chance on the track, probably with her tongue tied down. "If we are going to run her again we must try something else," Knight said, "otherwise she is going to be a write-off for ever."
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