Nicholson to face the Jockey Club

RACING: The trainer in a fracas with a photographer is summoned to a di sciplinary inquiry but his Flagship provides some relief RICHARD EDMONDSON NAP: Strong Deel (Newcastle 2.00) NB: Arctic Red (Stratford 3.40)
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The Independent Online
When Santa came down the chimney at David Nicholson's Jackdaws Castle stable this Christmas he did not have any providence in the sack.

Following Monday's unfortunate last-fence fall of Barton Bank in the King George VI Chase at Kempton, the trainer struck a photographer three times, an incident, it was announced yesterday, he will have to account for at Portman Square. Nicholson received news of his summons to appear before the Jockey Club after the helicopter transporting him and Adrian Maguire to Wetherby was forced down by bad weather at East Midlands Airport. They continued their journey by road and arrived in time for the jockey to partner the Nicholson-trained Viking Flagship to victory in the Castleford Chase.

The day had begun with Nicholson apologising by telephone to Edward Whitaker, the Racing Post photographer he attacked for the insolence of pointing a lens in his direction. Whitaker himself was later interviewed by the Kempton stewards with the morning papers spread out on the officials' desk.

Nicholson was unavailable, but the stewards got as much out of him as questioners at Wetherby, where the Duke maintained silence on the Kempton affair but not on the dramas of the journey. "It's been horrific," he said. "We were just 20 minutes from the course when the rotors started to freeze up on the helicopter. We had to take a taxi which cost us £100."

Meanwhile, the Kempton stewards decided to refer the other matter to Portman Square "to see if there had been a breach of the rules of racing".

This followed some puzzling words from officialdom. David Pipe, of the Jockey Club, had earlier said: "I would be surprised if the Jockey Club took any action." This is unlikely to have been the bulletin if the photographer had hit Nicholson, in which case a Papillon one-way super saver to Devil's Island would have already been prepared.

Andrew Cooper, the Kempton clerk of the course, revealed that immediate action had not been taken because no official complaint had been received. If anyone gets shot at Sunbury, it appears, the stewards will have to be notified in the proper manner before they act.

If this altercation had occurred in the High Street, weighty measures would be considered and Nicholson's case will be a benchmark of the Jockey Club's mettle. Violence on the racecourse has been treated ruthlessly in the past as bookmakers who have bared their fists will testify. In addition, it was only towards the end of this Flat season that Kieran Fallon was banned for six months for hauling Stuart Webster out of the saddle after a race.

Maguire, who missed a winning ride on Arthur's Minstrel because of the delayed journey, gave up his later mounts. "Adrian's knee is hurting after his fall from Barton Bank and he won't ride again today," Nicholson said. "If we'd been here for the first three races he might not have been fit for Viking Flagship."

Barton Bank is to return in the Hall of Fame Chase at Cheltenham on 28 January. "I can tell you that Barton Bank is fine," Nicholson said. "And the photographer is too."

With shamefully small fields at Kempton the retrospective nature of the day continued with progress reports on Monday's other fallers Travado, One Man and Jodami, all of whom sustained no lasting injuries.

One Man will be confined to quarters during January, but Jodami may be seen out on Monday in a Cheltenham handicap.

Those behind the 1993 Gold Cup winner have now become as obsessed with the psychiatrist's couch as Woody Allen and believe the gelding needs a mental overhaul.

"He's probably just getting a bit careless and we feel that bringing him back to 2m5f [on Monday] will do the trick," Mark Dwyer, Jodami's regular pilot, said. "We'll take the cotton wool off him a little bit now and treat him as a normal horse.

"He seems to have gone back in his way of thinking and he needs to wake himself up. From what used to be his strong point, his jumping, it's now become his weak link. We've got to start again and motivate the horse."

The day's most valuable race, the Christmas Hurdle, hardly produced tremors in the Champion Hurdle market as Absalom's Lady, who is chalked in for the Arkle Chase at the Festival, repelled the late challenge of her stablemate Atours.

The runner-up was knocked out in most Champion Hurdle lists, even though his jumping still showed scope for improvement. "This horse didn't jump a hurdle in Ireland [when third to Danoli on his last run] and was only marginally better today," David Elsworth, his trainer, said.

"He had an unfortunate enforced stay in Ireland and it was only in the last two or three days that he gave us better signals. I took him to the beach and he woke up. I like this horse. He's a very high-class hurdler."