Heavy fine inflicted on Easterby for `non-trier'

Greg Wood hears a trainer's flippant response to Jockey Club punishment
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The Independent Online
"Can you lend me a few quid?" was Mick Easterby's only comment as he left the Jockey Club's headquarters in Portman Square yesterday evening, but it would have taken rather more than that to fill the large hole which had just appeared in his bank account.

Easterby was fined pounds 2,500 by the Club's disciplinary committee over the performance of Wait'N'See, a two-year-old which runs in his name, in races at Carlisle and Doncaster earlier this year, while Terry Lucas, the gelding's rider on both occasions, was banned for 10 days under the same Rule 151, which deals with non-triers.

The size of Easterby's fine - which is believed to be the largest ever imposed for such an offence - indicates the seriousness with which the committee viewed the offence.

The case was referred to Portman Square by the local stewards at Carlisle, following Wait'N'See's victory at the track on 12 June, a success which was apparently not a surprise since he was backed from 11-2 to 11-4 in the ring. In his previous race, at Doncaster, Wait'N'See had finished well down the field, and since the Carlisle stewards could not obtain video footage of that race, the matter was passed on to the disciplinarians in London.

They did not like what they saw. Lucas was found to be in breach of Rule 151 (ii), "in that he failed to ride the gelding to obtain the best possible placing", while Easterby was guilty under rules 151 (i) and (iii), since "this failure was the result of his instructions". In some cases, this might simply imply a misunderstanding. The size of the fine, however, seems to indicate the committee believe that on the afternoon in question, Lucas was well aware of the trainer's intentions for his horse, and that victory was not foremost among them.

Since Wait'N'See started at 50-1 for his race at Doncaster, it is unlikely that many punters were left out of pocket when, as the form book puts it, he finished ninth of 12 and "never nearer". Nothing gnaws at a backer's faith in the integrity of racing, though, quite like a horse which shows sudden improvement when the money is down. With racing turnover under tremendous pressure from the Lottery and betting on other sports, the Club is clearly determined to persuade trainers that offenders will not escape lightly.

Yesterday's fine is a significant increase on those imposed in similar cases over the last year. Micky Hammond, Gary Moore and Toby Balding were all fined pounds 1,000 for breaches of Rule 151, while earlier this season, Luca Cumani was fined pounds 900 over the running of Zaralaska at York's May meeting.

The York stewards also banned Zaralaska from racing for 30 days, though the long-term plans for the horse were not seriously affected since he ran out the easy winner of the Bessborough Handicap at Royal Ascot just two days after the end of the suspension. The stewards could have imposed a similar ban on Wait'N'See yesterday, but seem to have decided that this would have been a case of shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted in.

It was a busy day for the Committee, who had earlier warned off Christopher Stubbs, described as a "regular racegoer", for three years after he admitted passing himself off as a jockey on two occasions in December last year, and aiding Philip Taylor, a jockey's valet, in placing bets. Following an earlier hearing, Taylor's licence to act as a valet was withdrawn until at least 1 December.

Richard Hannon failed to overturn the relegation of his Interdream from first place in a race at Brighton in July. Hannon had argued that interference between Interdream and Who's That Man, who finished a short-head second, had not improved his horse's placing.