Racing: Housemaster punishment hurts Quinn

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IT WILL be a strange Dante meeting at York next week, with several pegs bare in the jockeys' room. Richard Quinn became the latest rider to absent himself from at least part of the Knavesmire action when he was guilty of wild misjudgement here yesterday during the Roodeye's Derby trial.

The Scot was aboard Housemaster, a convincing, but disqualified winner of the Chester Vase who was sent barging past Lightning Arrow in the final furlong. It was very unsatisfactory, a Lennox Lewis of a result, as Housemaster was clearly the best horse in the race.

Quinn's error, which was judged to be irresponsible riding, earned him a six-day suspension, beginning with York's final day. Others who will be missing from the fray next week following misdemeanours are Frankie Dettori, Pat Eddery, Darryll Holland, Dane O'Neill and Fergal Lynch.

"It's particularly disappointing because it happened in a Group race and they're hard to win," Michael Bell, Housemaster's trainer, said. "We've produced the best horse, he's won a Derby trial impressively, going round the whole way on the bridle. And now the percentage for the owner, trainer and lads has gone down the Swanee. Or the Roodeye should I say."

Bell, however, could not be really cross as he had received confirmation that his colt was good enough to run in the Derby. Ladbrokes and Victor Chandler, who was supporting the Vase for the first time, assessed Housemaster as a 33-1 chance for Epsom. Coral, at 16-1, were far more impressed.

Certainly, there is much to please the eye about the Vase's moral winner. He is a most imposing animal, an athlete which exuded vitality in the parade ring, his neck arched, his feet dancing in anticipation.

Housemaster was not notable in the opening exchanges as Peshtigo led from the outset, albeit at a pace which would not have taken him past a hearse. Even five furlongs out there was no commotion, but when the gears were applied soon afterwards several of the eight runners floundered. Housemaster was the exception. Quinn was motionless among the whirrings of his rivals, moving up smoothly on the inside.

The powerful bay improved so swiftly that his partner may have been surprised to be hemmed in by walls of flesh. Peshtigo was directly in front and Lightning Arrow clamped to his side. Then came panic and an offence. Quinn swerved into Lightning Arrow who was pushed on to Iscan. Disqualification was inevitable. Peshtigo, at 14-1, was the fortunate victor.

Team Bell was nevertheless bold enough to look forward to the Derby and contemplate the greatest compensation possible. "He's been working very nicely and we were optimistic," Bell said. "He was 7lb clear in Timeform, clear on the Racing Post's spotform and all the figures had him winning the race, but they put him in at 8-1.

"I think he has the quality to be involved in the shake-up in the Derby. He had the speed to win over six furlongs as a two-year-old. He's a handy horse and should handle the track. And, he'll be finishing."

The Chester Vase has produced Blue Riband victors. Quest For Fame was second to Belmez here nine years ago before winning at Epsom. And in 1981 there was that Aga Khan horse which won here by 12 lengths and then by only a slightly shorter distance in the Classic. I remember Shergar. And Housemaster is no Shergar.

Joe Mercer, who manages Peshtigo for Sheikh Maktoum Al Maktoum, is one who does not believe Housemaster is good enough. He does not rate the form at all. "If you analyse that race, it ain't very good," he said.

"Peshtigo is nowhere near the No 1 in the string," he said. "That would be Beat All [a recent Newmarket winner], and then there's Golden Snake [who beat Housemaster in the Feilden Stakes]." They both run in the Dante Stakes at York next week, providing there are enough jockeys to go round.