Racing: Dunwoody decides to sit out suspension: The champion jockey decides not to appeal against suspension but steps up the drive to overhaul his title rival

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The Independent Online
THE champion jockey, Richard Dunwoody, accepted his fate yesterday, deciding not to appeal against the 14-day ban that will put him on the sidelines throughout the focal point of the National Hunt season, the Cheltenham Festival.

Dunwoody's deliberations must have been swayed by the danger that his ban, the maximum the Nottingham stewards could impose, may well have been extended by the Jockey Club when they judged an appeal. A substantial fine could have also been imposed.

A widespread opinion in the racing industry yesterday was that Dunwoody fully deserved harsh punishment for 'intentional interference'. Adrian Maguire, the champion's main rival for this season's title, looked fortunate to escape injury when forced off the track in Nottingham's first race on Tuesday.

Maguire's mount, Mr Geneaology, sustained a cut to a hind leg when crashing into a safety rail at the second last flight of hurdles.

However, Dunwoody insisted that there was no ill-feeling between the pair. 'We stopped for a drink on the way home last night,' he said yesterday. 'Adrian was very good about it. People think we are the worst of enemies but we get on very well together.'

Racing is one of the few walks of life where a condemned man joins the chief witness for the prosecution in a saloon bar chat.

Battle was rejoined yesterday afternoon, however, when Dunwoody and Maguire rode against each other at Fontwell. After a winner apiece, Maguire stayed five winners ahead in the title race.

Last night there was expected evidence that the defending champion will be going all out to catch, or even overhaul, his fellow Irishmen before the suspension starts on 10 March, five days before the three-day Festival at Cheltenham. Dunwoody's bookings today involve four rides at Warwick before dashing off to catch the final race at Ludlow.

All but one of these booked mounts are for Martin Pipe, who may well intensify his ration of runners in the next week to assist his retained jockey. Ladbrokes cut Dunwoody's odds to retain the championship to 7-4 from 9-4 yesterday, while slightly easing Maguire's odds to 2-5 from 1-3.

The champion's absence leaves trainers Martin Pipe and Nicky Henderson with the headache of finding replacement jockeys for their top entries at Cheltenham. A spokeswoman for the Pipe stable said: 'Martin will use the best jockeys available and we will be sorting them all out between now and the Festival.'

Henderson's problems were compounded yesterday when stable jockey Mick Fitzgerald was taken to hospital after suffering a suspected broken nose in a fall from Amtrak Express in a novice chase at Fontwell.

(Photograph omitted)