Racing: Deadline leaves Dunwoody in limbo: A dilemma confronts jumping's top jockey as tension grows over who he will ride for next season

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DAVID NICHOLSON has given Richard Dunwoody until Friday to decide if he is going to take the job as Martin Pipe's stable jockey next season or remain with him. The problem for Dunwoody is that Pipe has not offered him the job.

Nicholson has issued his ultimatum in order that the jockey swapping that will ensue when Pipe decides who will replace Peter Scudamore as the stable's retained rider can get underway. 'I can't wait until July for Martin Pipe to make up his mind,' Nicholson said yesterday. 'I don't want to be left holding the baby.

'Somebody has got to make a move. The phone hasn't stopped ringing this past two weeks since Peter Scudamore retired, with owners wanting to know who will be riding their horses next season.'

Pipe, however, is not going to be harried into deciding who is going to ride for the most prolific winner-producing stable Britain has ever known. 'I might decide this week, next week or next month. I just don't know,' he said yesterday. 'There's six weeks left of this season. I certainly haven't started thinking about next season yet.'

Pipe would not even go so far as to acknowledge that Dunwoody is one of the jockeys under consideration for the job. 'Richard is a very good jockey,' was all he would say. 'But there are some other very good jockeys around too.'

This all leaves Dunwoody with a considerable problem. Should he turn his back on Nicholson and Nick Henderson, his other retaining stable, when he has not been firmly offered another job? Should he stay loyal to the stables that have provided the bulk of his 150 winners this season and pushed him clearly on his way to his first jockeys' championship? Going through Dunwoody's mind will be that his championship success has come against a rider in Peter Scudamore whose appetite had started to wane. If Pipe engages someone young enough and hungry enough, such as obvious candidates Adrian Maguire or Charlie Swan, who will be prepared to slog around the country in search of winners, then Dunwoody will have a long, grim fight to hold on to his title.

Rather than taking umbrage at the pressure from Nicholson that has driven him into such an awkward corner, Dunwoody yesterday acknowleged that the time has come to clarify his position. 'I know it has to be sorted out this week,' he said. 'I have to be fair to the owners and to my other trainers.'

The place where the situation will be resolved is Ireland. Pipe, Nicholson and Henderson will all saddle runners at the Punchestown Festival which starts today, with Dunwoody riding for both his present employers and Pipe engaging Charlie Swan.

For Dunwoody the meeting provides a first opportunity to ride in the La Touche Cup over Punchestown's famous banks and for all concerned the opportunity to sit down and thrash things out. 'I can guarantee that Nick Henderson and I will be having a drink together over there,' Nicholson said in a way that suggested Pipe may not be a party to the session.

(Photograph omitted)