Racing: Murphy appeals against 'severe' ban

By Sue Montgomery
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The Independent Online

One Christmas presence under the tree, one still to be wrapped up. Jim Culloty, Best Mate's regular rider, has missed seven weeks through injury but returns to action today and is back on track for the festive festivals. Timmy Murphy, Martin Pipe's No 1, may miss seven days because of a ban picked up on Monday but decided yesterday to appeal against his punishment, which is scheduled to start on Boxing Day. The three wise men - aka the Jockey Club disciplinary committee - are likely to hear his words of mitigation in London tomorrow.

One Christmas presence under the tree, one still to be wrapped up. Jim Culloty, Best Mate's regular rider, has missed seven weeks through injury but returns to action today and is back on track for the festive festivals. Timmy Murphy, Martin Pipe's No 1, may miss seven days because of a ban picked up on Monday but decided yesterday to appeal against his punishment, which is scheduled to start on Boxing Day. The three wise men - aka the Jockey Club disciplinary committee - are likely to hear his words of mitigation in London tomorrow.

Murphy has been riding high, which makes it all the more ironic that his perceived transgression came when he was on the ground. The Irishman's partner in a handicap chase at Plumpton, Semi Precious, fell while in contention at the fourth last, eluded recapture by his erstwhile jockey and galloped off. In a display of frustration, Murphy hurled his whip at the departing backside, a spur-of-the-moment act which in no way harmed the horse but came under the "improper riding" heading.

The local stewards had the option of issuing as little as a caution for his rashness or as much as a 21-day suspension, but settled for something in between. Their verdict rules Murphy out of a selection of plum puddings including either Therealbandit or Our Vic in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day and Beef Or Salmon in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on 28 December or a ride in the Welsh National the same day.

But it is the ban's length as much as its timing that concerns Murphy, who has taken advice from John Blake, the chief executive of his trade body, the Jockeys' Association. "We were concerned with the severity of the ban and we would have been concerned had it happened on a quiet summer day or the week before Cheltenham," said Blake yesterday. "The Christmas period is busy for any jockey but the motivation for this appeal is not solely missing this busy period, the motivation is concern about the severity of the suspension."

The Jockey Club stewards will be sitting tomorrow for another appeal (that of Scotland-based Lenny Lungo against a £2,000 fine under the "non-triers" rule) and it is likely Murphy's will be slotted in to allow him to take up rides at Windsor.

One jockey, though, will be happy to be in front of the TV on Boxing Day, Sunday week. Tony Dobbin, who picked up a one-day disqualification for whip misuse at Musselburgh on Sunday, has worked the system to suit himself. The rules say that when there is a Grade One race on the day of a ban, it reverts to a day later. But Dobbin has opted to switch it back to 26 December. "I'll have a lot of good rides at Ayr on the Monday," he said. "Ayr has always been good to me and the trainers I ride for will have lots of runners. I haven't anything in the King George."

Culloty has been giving the thumb broken in a fall at Exeter last month a thorough work-out this week and returns to the West Country track today to ride Killone for Henrietta Knight in a novices' hurdle. "It's all gone very well and the thumb feels great," he said yesterday after riding out.

Culloty had to miss Best Mate's successful seasonal debut in the William Hill Chase (when Murphy deputised) but should be back on board when the nine-year-old tries for back-to-back wins in the Lexus Chase.

But, grimly, the caveat "injury allowing" always applies in a high-risk profession. German champion Peter Gehm, dual winner of the Velka Pardubicka aboard Registana (on whom he took the wrong course at Cheltenham on his last visit here), is in a coma in a Cologne hospital with a broken back following a freak fall while riding out.

Like Murphy, Kieren Fallon has endured some turbulent times and yesterday he spoke for the first time of his relief at the Jockey's Club's decision this week not to pursue disrepute charges in the wake of allegations of race-fixing made in a Sunday tabloid. "I have always maintained my innocence," he said, "but the pressure on me during the past few months has been colossal. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my solicitor, without whose help I do not know how I would have got through recent events."

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