Racing: McCoy and Fox appeal against riding bans

Two jump jockeys who could hardly be further apart on the spectrum of talent keep the focus today on the courtroom rather than on the weighing room. At the Jockey Club's headquarters in London, Tony McCoy, the nine-times champion, and Sean Fox, who rode two winners last season and has yet to even have a ride this, will face the stewards, both as a result of appeals against bans but under hugely different circumstances.

Two jump jockeys who could hardly be further apart on the spectrum of talent keep the focus today on the courtroom rather than on the weighing room. At the Jockey Club's headquarters in London, Tony McCoy, the nine-times champion, and Sean Fox, who rode two winners last season and has yet to even have a ride this, will face the stewards, both as a result of appeals against bans but under hugely different circumstances.

Fox, 33, was stood down for 21 days by the stewards at Fontwell for allegedly deliberately jumping off Ice Saint, a market drifter both on-course and on betting exchanges, during a four-horse novices' chase at the Sussex track in March. The incident came a week after another controversial losing ride, that given to Ballinger Ridge by Kieren Fallon at Lingfield, and sparked an investigation by the Jockey Club's security department.

All the evidence on both sides was heard last Friday; this afternoon closing submissions will be made and the verdict delivered. Fox, who came off the strong-travelling Ice Saint just after the ninth fence, was charged under Rule 157, which deals with "the intention of concealing the true ability of the horse or affecting the result of the race." If today's panel concur with their Fontwell colleagues, Fox can expect a severe punishment but should it be concluded that his actions were not deliberate the rule that deals with a rider's competence may come into play.

McCoy's ability rarely comes under official scrutiny these days and any punishments have generally been for trying too hard rather than not enough. But he was given a 10-day ban at Bangor on Friday, deemed by the local stewards to have dropped his hands on 7-2 shot Batten Down, who was caught close home and beaten a short-head for third place. The gelding, dismounted soon after the line, was subsequently found to have broken a blood-vessel.

The Ulsterman admits he eased off on the run-in, but only because he felt Batten Down was in distress. Today's the case may spotlight the authorities' view of the line between responsibilities to horse and to punter, which should be unarguable but sometimes appears fine.

The question of the responsibilities to the horse was one which emerged from Tuesday night's final denouement of another long-running inquiry into a loser, one in which conspiracy theories were rife. In the case of Hillside Girl, a market drifter who was pulled up lame in a race at Carlisle in June last year, corruption charges against trainer Alan Berry, jockey Paul Bradley and farrier Steve O'Sullivan collapsed. But although Berry was cleared of deliberately running a lame horse in order to profit by laying in on the exchanges, he was fined £1,500 under the rule that governs standards of competence for "failing to train with reasonable care and with due regard to the safety of his horses." He may, however, have got off rather lightly in this area.

It was known that Hillside Girl had problems with her left knee before the race - among others, a vet who gave evidence at the enquiry alerted Berry to the fact - and later she had to have remedial surgery, and has not run since. It is not the first time Berry's management of his charges has come under scrutiny; in July last year a dissatisfied owner alleged lack of care as a reason for withholding payment of bills for horses he had removed from Cockerham Stables, although Berry successfully sued for the monies. O'Sullivan gave evidence on his behalf on that occasion.

Racing's rules allow penalties for three levels in this department: care below acceptable standards can result in a fine between £1,000 and £3,000; negligence or sustained poor husbandry can be punished by a six-month ban; and wilful cruelty can lead to disqualification.

At Yarmouth yesterday Kieren Fallon pulled two clear (151-149) of Frankie Dettori in the race for the jockey's title with a brace on Divinely Decadent and Dewhurst Stakes entry Home Affairs. The seaside card produced a rare 100-1 winner for apprentice Hayley Turner on Tata Naka, trained by Christine Dunnett, in the 10-furlong handicap.

Fallon and Dettori, who ride, respectively, at Yarmouth and Pontefract today, will be head-to-head again at Newbury tomorrow, where the feature contest, the Dubai Duty Free Arc Trial, has attracted a field of nine, including Longchamp entries Percussionist, Day Flight and Sights On Gold.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Rebel Rebel

(Yarmouth 4.30)

NB: The Prince

(Ayr 3.40)

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