Racing: Cauthen whip conflict grows

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The Independent Online
A COMPLAINT became a campaign here yesterday when Steve Cauthen, twice punished for his use of the stick on Thursday, stepped up his opposition to the current rule on whips and claimed to have the support of his 'top 10' colleagues. It was a day of strongly-worded exchanges between the normally quiet American and the Goodwood stewards.

Cauthen was perturbed after receiving a four-day ban for the first offence, on Witness Box, and downright apoplectic when he was called to account again for the same offence two and a half hours later on Daru. Though he has never before fallen foul of the whipping guidelines in this country, Cauthen now faces a compulsory holiday of up to 18 days, because the Jockey Club's disciplinary committee can add as many as 14 days on to the four he will already have to take if they agree that this was a flagrant breach of racing's laws.

According to Cauthen yesterday the stewards implied he had deliberately repeated his misdemeanour in a 'belligerent' attempt to defy their authority. 'They've taken the view that I'm being bloody-minded about their rule,' he said. That Cauthen would consider abusing a horse - especially one owned by his main patron, Sheikh Mohammed - to make a political point is, of course, a preposterous suggestion, if indeed the stewards made it.

Cauthen is the last jockey you would classify as a 'carpet beater', yet suddenly, for the first time since he arrived in Britain in 1979, officialdom has taken exception to his method of striking horses (not hard) in front of the saddle.

'I felt it was corrective and fair use of the whip because my horse was leaning into the rail,' Cauthen said. 'I've never been anywhere else in the world where they've banned for hitting a horse down the shoulder. The top 10 (Flat jockeys) are in agreement with me that it's a bad rule.'

The other main player on the cast list was the stewards' secretary, Peter Steveney, who defended his team's verdict by saying: 'That part of the rule was clarified in 1989, that hitting a horse down the shoulder with the whip in the forehand position is not allowed except for necessary corrective action.'

Steveney also spoke of Cauthen's 'attitude towards the rule' while explaining why the case has been sent up to Portman Square. 'These instances seem to happen wherever he (Steveney) has been standing,' Cauthen said, as the argument threatened to become unappealingly personal. 'He seems to be a common denominator.'

Cauthen's disciplinary hearing is likely to be a test case which determines whether the whip rules as they relate to Flat racing are reexamined. 'I tend to flick horses with the whip. I don't pulverise them,' Cauthen said. 'I have never been considered a flogger of horses.' It should be quite an inquiry.

(Photograph omitted)