Racing: Balding cracks whip at club: A top trainer sides with a young rider given a Jockey Club public warning over his robust style. Greg Wood reports from Cheltenham

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The Independent Online
AS HE left the unsaddling enclosure after riding Calapaez into second place in the big race here yesterday, Adrian Maguire refused to comment on his portrayal by the Jockey Club as a 'hard man' rider whose aggressive style is testing their patience. Perhaps wisely, he left the case for his defence to Toby Balding, whose impression of Perry Mason in tweeds was as convincing as it was heartfelt.

Balding had just added pounds 15,000 to his prize-money total by saddling Beech Road to take the Silver Trophy Chase, but it was the Jockey Club seminar two days ago, on mis-use of the whip, during which Maguire's name featured with the frequency of a mantra, which most concerned him.

With his stout figure and distinctive joviality, Balding is the closest thing racing has to a Falstaff figure, but there was an uncharacteristic tone of anger, as he said: 'What's happened has made Adrian out to be a horse-hating vandal. He's only a boy of 21 and it's hard on him.'

Warming rapidly to his theme, Balding continued: 'I think he deserves at the very least an apology from someone at the top. If he'd known what was going to happen he could have been there to defend himself. I've never had one horse which I consider him to have abused.

'It's Nigel MacFarlane (secretary of the club's disciplinary committee) I take exception to. He's come out and used Adrian as an example of what he called barbarism, which I feel is unpardonable, almost defamatory and totally unwarranted.'

Balding has advised Maguire to consult a lawyer, but while it is hard to see the argument making it to court, the club's high-handed attitude is still very poor PR, as it tries to reinvent itself as a modern, forward-looking organisation. The club members, who were no doubt horrified when, in 1868, public hanging was abolished, would just as surely look with favour on their successors' attempt at restoration.

Calapaez received several cracks before running on to take second on the line, but otherwise Maguire had no need for his whip yesterday except as a makeshift swat for the first flies of summer. The hot months usually offer a well-earned, if all too brief, rest for National Hunt's long-term performers, but for one former champion this year's summer holiday is likely to be permanent.

Katabatic, winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase here in 1991 and a leading money-winner each season since, was less than two lengths behind Beech Road, but in a race which he would have once have won by two dozen. Retirement seems likely for Andy Turnell's gelding, of whom the trainer said: 'There's nothing there, the poor old boy. He had a lung infection badly last season, and he's not within two stone of himself. I hate to see good horses (keep racing and) go down.'

Another fading light, the 1992 Gold Cup winner, Cool Ground, was the only runner in the handicap proper in the Golden Miller Trophy, but still could finish only second to Nick Henderson's lightly-raced Le Piccolage.

Henderson punctured the end-of-term atmosphere, reporting that the gelding, who was running for the first time in almost four months, may well attempt to make up for lost time. 'His near-hind leg kept blowing up like a balloon and we never really got to the bottom of what it was,' Henderson said. 'It's been a nightmare to get him ready, but now we have it would be a shame to put him to bed.'

Bed was clearly the last thing on the minds of the connections of Country Lad, who won the EBF Hurdle Final in little more than a canter at 33-1. 'We laid him out for this, though we didn't realise it would be quite such a hot race,' Sarah Williams, Country Lad's trainer, said during a brief interlude in the celebrations.

On a day when Maguire's public dressing-down threatened to dominate, the scenes offered a timely reminder that when your wallet has grown 33 times larger in five minutes, nothing else matters.

(Photograph omitted)

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