Racing: Charnock denies blame for mayhem - A row over responsibility follows a first-race fall of five riders and their mounts in front of Redcar's grandstand

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The Independent Online
LINDSAY CHARNOCK, the senior among Britain's troop of lightweight jockeys, was blamed by racecourse officials for a five-horse melee at Redcar yesterday after which two jockeys were taken to hospital.

Charnock was deemed guilty of irresponsible riding and given a 10-day suspension, but many experienced observers believe he was unfairly punished for an accident for which no blame should have been apportioned.

The incident occurred in the opening race, a selling handicap. Charnock, who has held a riding licence for over 20 years, partnered the 14-1 chance Eurocon and disputed the early running. The field had covered barely 200 yards of the mile and six furlongs event and was right in front of the grandstand when gravity overcame forward momentum.

Mena, partnered by Gary Forster, was the first to come down. The filly appeared to clip the heels of Bilberry, the horse in front of her. Four of the following runners, Magenta Boy, Kalko, Lafkadio and Milo - all positioned towards the rear of the field, were brought down, and the scene resembled a battlefield with horses and riders scattered all over the turf.

The worst sufferer among the jockeys was Magenta Boy's partner, Jason Tate, who was taken to Middlesbrough General Hospital with a suspected broken collar-bone. He was accompanied in the ambulance by Forster, who was suffering from concussion.

John Stack, Kalko's rider, and Danny Wright, who had been on board Milo, were able to walk back to the weighing room. Stack was fit to carry on riding, but Wright, who had no other mounts, returned nursing a badly swollen elbow and wrist. Neil Kennedy, Lafkadio's jockey, gave up his only other booked mount, complaining of a bad headache caused by his fall.

'It was a miracle nobody was badly hurt,' Kennedy said. 'I remember my head banging the ground and I was lucky there was nothing behind me.'

Wright said: 'She (Mena) just fell in front of me. I had nowhere to go and got catapulted out of the saddle. I was the last one to come down and it was a horrifying experience.'

Charnock, whose mount was drawn 15 of the 16 runners, had edged to his left as he drove Eurocon to the front. He appeared to be clear of Mena when that rival stumbled.

The 39-year-old rider, who goes to scale at 7st 7lb, was shown video recordings of the incident by the stewards. 'I can't believe their decision,' he said. 'The head-on film was inconclusive, but when I saw it from the side view, I wondered why I was even in the stewards' room.

'I've got to appeal and I've already been in touch with the Jockeys' Association secretary, Michael Caulfield.'

Tom O'Ryan, one of the senior form-book racereaders, agreed that the officials had 'made a very bad mistake'.

'Nobody was to blame,' O'Ryan said. 'I think the stewards felt under pressure to apportion blame to someone.'

Kevin Darley, the jockeys' safety officer in the North, said: 'I think there were too many runners. The safety figures have got to be looked at.' Voicing an opinion that has been heard many times during this Flat season in which there have been a number of similar incidents, including one at Lingfield in which Steve Wood was killed, Darley added: 'Races are getting so competitive and no one's giving an inch.'

John Carroll was suspended for two days for careless riding on Lady Quinta at Brighton yesterday.

(Photograph omitted)