Jockey Club matches the punishment to the crime

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The Independent Online


Five years ago, few would have believed that the words "Jockey Club" and "responsive" would ever occupy the same sentence. But just weeks after its overhaul of the local stewarding system the Club yesterday announced significant changes to the process for penalising errant jockeys, which were prompted, at least in part, by the concerns of the riders themselves.

The most persistent of these worries was the growing number of jockeys being automatically referred to the Club's Disciplinary Committee for punishment - almost invariably a long suspension - following their third offence of the season. This could mean a rider receiving a lengthy ban for a very minor third indiscretion, a problem exaggerated by the ever- increasing workload of many jockeys. Lanfranco Dettori has partnered a once- unthinkable 1,000 horses in Britain this year.

Under a new system outlined by the Jockey Club yesterday, coming into effect on 1 January 1996, suspensions will be calculated on a rolling 12-month basis rather than the current system, under which the slate is wiped clean at the end of a season. When a jockey is found guilty of a riding offence, local stewards will impose a penalty purely to match the severity of the infringement, and without taking previous offences into account. This would range from a caution (for example, for a first whip offence in 12 months) or up to a 10-day ban for careless riding, to 10 to 14 days, or an immediate referral to Portman Square, for particularly serious cases of reckless riding or intentional interference.

Only when a rider has been suspended for a total of 12 days or more will he be referred to the Disciplinary Committee, and only on the next occasion he commits a similar type of offence (as at present, riding and whip penalties will be treated separately). Since the new system should make it harder for most jockeys to book themselves a trip to the Square, those who do can expect stern treatment, with a ban appropriate to the offence plus a minimum of 14 days for the accumulation.

"Jockeys who persistently break the rules deserve a long suspension," said Anthony Mildmay-White, chairman of the committee. "The referral system, away from the pressures of the racecourse, allows the committee to consider a jockey's riding as a whole. This provides the opportunity for advice as well as punishment.''

The Club will also be able to defer part of a suspension for up to six months, to allow a rider to attempt to address his bad habits. The new system will also start from scratch on 1 January, with no account taken of transgressions during the past 12 months, a point which particularly pleased Michael Caulfield, secretary of the Jockeys' Association.

"We were very pleased to be part of the decision-making process and I'm optimistic that the new package is fairer and reflects the demands that a 12-month season puts on jockeys," Caulfield said. "I'm thinking of people like Brett Doyle and David Harrison, who ride to the new rules, and even they missed significant parts of last season because they made a tiny error."

And most hopeful of all, perhaps, is the feeling that the spirit of co- operation seems likely to persist well beyond the festive season.