Racing: Hennessy ban looms for McCoy

TONY McCOY, the champion National Hunt jockey, could be banned for up to three weeks after being found guilty of using his whip with excessive frequency by the stewards at Fontwell yesterday. His case was referred to the Jockey Club's Disciplinary Committee and, if found guilty, he faces a suspension of at least 14 days. His chances of appearing at the Hennessy Gold Cup on Saturday fortnight as anything other than a spectator are slim.

McCoy's is by some way the most successful jump jockey to be referred to Portman Square under the system of "totting up", which takes into account the number of offences a rider has committed during the course of a 12- month period. Since he has been suspended for a total of 15 days since 4 April, yesterday's offence automatically triggered a hearing in London.

McCoy would say only he was "too embarrassed to comment" as he left Fontwell yesterday, but Major Jeremy Ker, the stewards' secretary, said: "He hit the horse [Bamapour in the claiming hurdle] nine times on the run-in, the first five of which were fairly forceful."

The hearing into McCoy's case will probably take place next week. If he is found guilty, any suspension will begin 48 hours later, in order to give him time to appeal. Although 14 days would be the minimum suspension, other jockeys to have transgressed under the totting-up system have received bans of between 20 and 22 days. Part of the sentence, however, could be suspended.

McCoy's superiority over his rivals is so complete that even three weeks off would not significantly affect his prospects of winning another title. Earlier this year, though, he complained that close attention from the stewards might drive him to give up riding in Britain. Yesterday's events are unlikely to diminish any suspicion in McCoy's mind that he is becoming a marked man.