Racing: Dunwoody banned as rivalry boils over: Champion's title hopes slip with suspension for obstructing Maguire

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RICHARD DUNWOODY, the champion National Hunt rider, was banned from riding for 14 days yesterday after being found guilty of deliberately obstructing a horse ridden by Adrian Maguire, his main rival for the jockeys' championship.

The incident in the first race at Nottingham ended with Maguire and his mount, Mr Geneaology, crashing into the course's plastic safety rail as he was forced to swerve away from the second last hurdle. Dunwoody will decide today whether to appeal to the Jockey Club against the ban. He is expected to do so, but the evidence against him appears overwhelming. Fourteen days is the maximum the local stewards are permitted to impose.

If the ban remains in force Dunwoody will miss the Cheltenham Festival, the highlight of the National Hunt season, which starts in two weeks' time. In addition it could well cost him the championship because it will allow Maguire, no stranger to bans himself, the opportunity to build an unassailable lead.

The trouble occurred in the home straight, with Dunwoody leading on his mount Raggerty. Maguire, who was riding the odds-on favourite in the Junior Selling Hurdle, then attempted to pass Dunwoody on the inside as they approached the penultimate flight of hurdles.

Raggerty veered violently left and bumped Mr Geneaology. The second contact left Maguire galloping towards the safety rail at the wing of the hurdle, and his mount crashed into the plastic rail as he was forced to snatch up and swerve away from the jump. After being put out of the race, Maguire lost his irons and looked fortunate not to fall.

Raggerty went on to 'win' easily, but was disqualified and placed last following a lengthy stewards' inquiry. The race was awarded to the second-placed horse, Ho-Joe. Geoff Forster, the stewards' secretary, said: 'They felt that it was appropriate to give Dunwoody the maximum penalty. It was a clear-cut case, there were two points of contact.'

If the ban is upheld on appeal, Dunwoody would miss a number of top rides at the Festival, including Remittance Man, the favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and Granville Again, due to defend his title in the Champion Hurdle. Honest Word, in the Sun Alliance Chase, and Devils Den (Triumph Hurdle) were also expected to go to Cheltenham with leading chances.

An even greater blow to Dunwoody would be if the ban costs him the championship. After falling more than 40 winners behind Maguire by the beginning of this year, he had fought back to be just four adrift of his main rival before yesterday's incident.

Odds-on favourite to retain the championship 24 hours ago, Dunwoody is now 9-4 against (from 4-7) with Ladbrokes, while Maguire is 1-3 favourite (from 5-4) to land his first title.

'I suppose it doesn't come at a very good time of the season,' was Dunwoody's understated response to the ban. 'But life goes on.' Maguire, displaying an esprit de corps which had been denied him only moments earlier, said: 'I feel very sorry for Richard that he's going to miss Cheltenham.'

There were harsher words, however, from John White, Mr Geneaology's trainer. 'Dunwoody deserves what he got,' White said. 'My horse's hind leg was cut and in the days before plastic wings were introduced he and Adrian Maguire would have been badly hurt.'

For Dunwoody at least, it was still a painful experience.

A turbulent rivalry, page 37

(Photograph omitted)