Hills will challenge Pentire ban

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The Independent Online


Michael Hills has decided to appeal against the ban which, if upheld, will deprive him of the ride on Pentire in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot a week today. The jockey will know his fate on Wednesday morning, when he will face the Jockey Club disciplinary committee; Michael Roberts has been put on standby for the big-race favourite.

Hills, 33, who won the Derby on Shaamit last month, was suspended by the Doncaster stewards for careless riding in a minor contest on Wednesday. After studying film of the incident yesterday with Michael Caulfield, secretary of the Jockeys' Association, he said: "I have decided to go ahead, and I hope to God we can get it." A similar ban two years ago cost Hills a Group One win in the July Cup on Owington, like Pentire trained by Geoff Wragg.

Caulfield said: "We don't advise jockeys to go to Portman Square if we don't think they've a very good case. We're confident we've seen enough to convince the committee the findings were incorrect at Doncaster."

Wragg ended speculation about Hills's possible replacement - Paul Eddery, who stepped in for Owington, was one name bandied about - with the announcement of Roberts's part in the play. The South African, who has won the King George on Mtoto and Opera House, will partner Pentire in his final workout this morning.

Wragg said of the four-year-old, runner-up in Ascot's summer showpiece last year and 11-4 favourite to go one better this time: "He is in very good shape and is a game little horse so I don't think a change of rider would be a problem to him."

One jockey for whom the waiting is over is Adrian Maguire, who returns to action at Stratford tomorrow after four months on the sidelines. The injury-prone Irishman's broken collar-bone on 1 March ended his jump championship dreams. "It's been a long haul but everything's fine now," Maguire said. "I've been working in the gym, and ridden work. As far as I'm concerned I've never left the top and I'm going to show it again."

As far as today is concerned, on paper the fare is workmanlike rather than brilliant, but it is one of those days that may be more significant in retrospect. In the past five years subsequent Group One winners Dayjur, Rodrigo De Triano, Lyric Fantasy, Turtle Island and Mister Baileys have appeared as two-year-olds at this Newbury fixture, where the three opening heats, all on BBC, feature the youngest generation.

The most valuable event is the pounds 50,000 Weatherbys Super Sprint, in which the weights carried are determined by the yearling auction price of the competitors. Since its inception five years ago it has been something of a benefit for Richard Hannon, who has sent out two winners and seven placed horses. He launches a four-strong attack today, of which Fanny's Choice may be the pick, but all may have to give best to Fredrik the Fierce (2.30), at 20,000gns the most expensive of the runners. Trained by Jack Berry, who won the inaugural running with Paris House, he got off the mark at Chester after being gelded, and is going the right way.

Lord Carnarvon loves to win at his local course, and can do so with Hannon- trained Wolf Mountain (2.00), a half-brother to his ill-fated filly Niche. The opener may concern two well-bred fillies, Crystal Crossing (1.30) and Hakkaniyah, with preference for the runner from Manton, home of last year's victor, Polaris Flight.

Punters will have another option to lose away from horses through a joining of forces by the major bookmakers. Prompted by the spectre of a bi-weekly National Lottery, the betting industry has launched Lucky Choice, which allows gambling on the numbers in the Irish Lottery. Value for money is relative, but compared with any lottery, Lucky Choice undoubtedly is, guaranteeing a pounds 44,371 payout for the selection of five correct numbers. To the same pounds 1 stake, last week's Lottery paid pounds 1,394 for five winning numbers.