Racing: Ban adds to Maguire misfortune: A four-day suspension for careless riding may mark a turning point for leading jump jockey

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The Independent Online
IF THERE is to be a turnaround in this year's National Hunt jockeys' championship, the turning point probably came this week.

Adrian Maguire, who not so long ago was a distant speck in the title race - some 40-odd winners ahead of his nearest challenger, Richard Dunwoody - completed a dreadful 72 hours yesterday when he collected a four-day ban for careless riding at Folkestone.

Maguire went into Saturday's card at Warwick with 111 winners already to his name, a name which virtually all assumed was destined to be inked in on the jockeys' scroll of honour for the first time. But, while the young Irishman won the Warwick National on Moorcroft Boy, there were also damaging reverses.

Maguire chose wrongly in the big race, the Victor Chandler Chase, when he let in Dunwoody for the winning mount on Viking Flagship as he partnered another David Nicholson horse, Waterloo Boy. The repercussions from an earlier ride that day, on Nicholson's Ramstar, may be even more crucial, however.

The jockey was seen to raise his whip arm 29 times as he chased another Dunwoody- ridden horse, Castle Diamond, and though this statistic was not enough to stoke up the local stewards, a higher power has intervened. At Portman Square today, members of the Jockey Club will decide whether to re-open the case, which could lead to a lengthy suspension for Maguire.

He already has four days off, from January 27, following yesterday's display on Spikey in the novice chase. The gelding went down by a head to Mailcom, but was relegated to third after being found guilty of hampering Bollinger on the run-in. Bollinger was ridden, ironically enough, by Declan Murphy, who was also involved in the finish when Maguire picked up his last suspension, on Barton Bank in the King George VI Chase at Kempton last month.

The case against Maguire yesterday was tilted by the fact that Spikey swerved left while his partner operated the whip in his right hand. Geoff Forster, the stewards' secretary, said: 'The jockey had his head down and was using his stick in his right hand. He seemed oblivious to the fact that Bollinger was behind him.'

Maguire's mood cannot have been helped by the knowledge that Dunwoody is closing in on him at the top of the table. While the leader has ridden just one winner from his last 23 mounts, Dunwoody has been in his best form of the season and a double yesterday took him to 31 winners in arrears. William Hill, who offered Maguire at 1-5 for the title on Sunday, now go 4-9.

The current champion celebrated his 30th birthday by winning the opener on Fools Errand. His other, more unexpected, winner was the 9-1 shot Nazzaro, who took advantage of a jumping error by Bay Mischief. Having floored that equine odds-on shot, Dunwoody now has his eye on a human one.

JUMP JOCKEYS' CHAMPIONSHIP: Ladbrokes: 1-3 Adrian Maguire, 9-4 Richard Dunwoody; William Hill: 4-9 Maguire, 13-8 Dunwoody.