Racing: Cauthen caught by whip rule

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The Independent Online
STEVE CAUTHEN crossed a notable threshold in his long and remunerative British voyage here yesterday, but his diary entry for 1992 Goodwood Cup day will not be one he re-reads with affection.

One day after Pat Eddery returned from a four-day suspension for whip-misuse, Cauthen received his first ban for over-hitting a horse since arriving here in 1979, and after repeating the offence of striking down the shoulder while winning on Daru had his case referred to the Jockey Club's headquarters at Portman Square.

When Cauthen emerged from the weighing room to discuss his first punishment - the equivalent in football would be Gary Lineker landing a booking at last - his arms were raised in mock surrender, but from his comments on the 'bad rule' which prohibits a rider landing more than 10 blows in a finish it was clear that Cauthen was, in fact, adopting the crucifixion position.

Like Lineker, Cauthen has laboured under the title of 'best ambassador for his sport', but if the authorities expect him to maintain diplomatic silence on the recent spate of suspensions they had better transfer the robes of office now. 'I've been slapping horses down the shoulder for 16 years,' Cauthen said. 'Muis Roberts does it, Pat Eddery does it and Lester Piggott does it. It's a bad deal. I'm going to go to Portman Square where I will get all those who believe what I believe to back me up. John Gosden will be behind me as well as the jockeys.'

Suitably enough, Cauthen's mount in the Goodwood Cup was called Witness Box, which is where jockeys have been increasingly finding themselves after applying maximum force in tight finishes. Yesterday, Cauthen's main transgression was the number of times he slapped Witness Box and Daru down the neck, and there is certainly a problem here because a forehand blow in front of the saddle carries nothing like the weight of a strike on the horse's hind-quarters.

The first to defend Cauthen on this point was Witness Box's trainer, John Gosden, who said: 'Hitting down the shoulder doesn't hurt a horse. Giving it a backhander does. The rule's got to be changed.' Cauthen feels that the stewards should 'judge each case on its merits' rather than rigidly applying the 10-hit regulation.

If they did, the more sympathetic, artful jockeys like Cauthen would be less likely to incur penalties, even if they had exceeded the maximum figure. To counterbalance the tide of indignation flowing from the changing rooms, though, it is worth pointing out that the Jockey Club have taken courageous and difficult steps to eradicate the pointless and sometimes cruel beating of horses. The task is to get the balance right.

A bit like Michael Hills did on Further Flight in Witness Box's race and Little Bean in the Golden Mile, a startlingly successful betting race that seems to combine quality - Little Bean has plenty of that - with the best traditions of gambling (crazed optimism).

In the morning, Goodwood was buzzing with a warning from Geoff Wragg, trainer of Little Bean and Marling, that the course might not suit his contender for the Golden Mile, but if that was so, it was evident only in the horse's eagerness to get back to his stable quicker than his rivals.

It is a comment on Barry Hills' problems with viruses this year that before Further Flight's victory, Michael Hills had not ridden a winner for his father all year. 'I would rather have a divorce and go broke than have 120 sick horses,' Hills (Barry) said.

'Things have been better in the last few days. It's a bit like an election, with the swingometer coming back towards us.' For the jockeys - Cauthen and company insist - the needle of justice is swinging the other way.

Results, page 26

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