Racing: Ban spoils McCoy success

Champion galvanises Eudipe to big-race win but is punished for whip misuse
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The Independent Online
JOCKEYS AND jockeyship came under scrutiny for mostly the right reasons here yesterday. Richard Dunwoody notched a memorable double on two high-class novices while Mick Fitzgerald's dropped whip might have made the difference between victory and defeat in a finish of whiskers. And although Tony McCoy picked up a whip ban as he comprehensively outrode Philip Hide to take the day's feature handicap chase, at least he was in trouble for an honest sporting mistake rather than any suggestion of malpractice.

The champion fell foul of the stewards after he had driven Eudipe past Glitter Isle in the Anthony Mildmay, Peter Cazalet Memorial Chase. Glitter Isle, ridden by Hide, appeared to have Eudipe's measure as he approached the final obstacle, but an awkward, flat-footed landing switched the advantage to Eudipe and McCoy needed no second invitation to engage overdrive. He urged a willing Eudipe to a length victory and made Hide's technique look very moderate in the process. But his whip style is under constant scrutiny and he was judged yesterday to have hit his mount, who was not marked in any way, in the wrong place, on the ribcage rather than backside. He picked up a two-day suspension, starting on Monday week, for the offence, to which is added a four days' suspended ban.

Eudipe, who was carrying top-weight of 12 stone and conceding 19lb to his rival, was not winning out of turn, having been placed in both the Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh National this term. The Martin Pipe-trained seven-year-old has entered Grand National lists at around 20-1.

Four subsequent Cheltenham Festival winners - French Holly, Cyfor Malta, Champleve and Upgrade - turned up for the day's sport on the Esher slopes a year ago and the evidence was that the signposts were out again yesterday.

Behrajan, the second of Dunwoody's pair, provided the shock of the afternoon by trouncing hitherto unbeaten Hidebound by 16 lengths in the Tolworth Hurdle, one of the season's Grade 1 novice mileposts. The four-year-old was given an intelligent ride; Dunwoody never let Hidebound, a runaway winner at Ascot three weeks previously, get away and although the odds- on favourite found disappointingly little when the crunch came over the final two flights there was no denying Behrajan's authority as he lengthened away up the hill.

The win, let alone its facility, was something of a surprise to the rangy white-faced bay's connections. His trainer Henry Daly, who took over Tim Forster's Ludlow yard this season, had elected to go to Warwick and even Dunwoody said: "I had been a big fan of Hidebound - you couldn't have failed to be on what he had done - but the way this one won he must be a very nice horse. He was always travelling and for such a big, backward youngster jumped very well."

Last year's Tolworth winner French Holly went on to take the Supreme Novices Hurdle; Behrajan is now second-favourite, to his victim's stablemate Katarino, for the race confined to his age-group, the Triumph Hurdle. The gelding, a son of Arazi and 1989 Arc runner-up Behera, is owned by a seven-strong group which includes Johnny Weatherby, chairman of the Jockey Club secretariat, Lady Lord Webber and her racing manager Simon Marsh.

Earlier Dunwoody had survived a bad blunder by the Josh Gifford-trained Kurakka at the fence before the water to take the two-and-a-half mile novices chase. Though the giant six-year-old finished very tired in the tacky ground he was in a different class to his rivals and came home 18 lengths clear of Act In Time to make it three out of three over fences. In the opening Fairlawne Juvenile Hurdle Joe Tizzard got Norski Lad home by about an inch from Blue Royal, on whom Fitzgerald dropped his whip 100 yards from the finish.

In Ireland, the sponsors' efforts to save the 13th Ladbroke Hurdle from the floods were rewarded by a skinner at Leopardstown yesterday, and that even by the standards of a race which down the years has been the closest thing in racing to a bookmakers' charity. Archive Footage's victory, gained at 25-1 from 40-1 shot Daraheen Chief, was hardly the toast of the grandstands but it did provide a career highlight for David Evans. The British challenge, just three after a record initial entry of 23, was led home by fifth-placed Polar Prospect.

The mood among the professionals, following the arrest on Friday of three more of their number - jockeys Graham Bradley and Ray Cochrane and ex-trainer Charlie Brooks - as part of the long-running race-fixing investigation by police, is one of anger tempered by bewilderment, sadness and some apprehension.

It is almost a year since the gaze of the Organised Crime Squad turned on the sport with the first of a spate of arrests, but no charges have yet been brought. Bradley, successful at Warwick on Luke Warm yesterday, is confident that he will be exonerated. He was quizzed on Friday about a race two and a half years ago which came under investigation at the time but over which the Jockey Club took no action and said yesterday: "They searched my house, including the airing cupboard and the outhouse, but not the loft, and then bagged up everything they wanted before taking me to Charing Cross police station, where I spent two and a half hours in a cell before they asked me about 10 questions."