Racing: Jockey carries can for Dalliance's fluctuation

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The Independent Online
THE PROTRACTED and potentially embarrassing case of the Queen's trainer and the alleged non-trier reached its close at Portman Square yesterday, when Lord Huntingdon left a hearing of the Jockey Club's disciplinary committee with his reputation unsullied.

The committee cleared the trainer of any wrongdoing over the controversial performance of Silken Dalliance in a handicap at Newbury on 19 September, but decided that Daragh O'Donohoe, the filly's jockey, had not made "sufficient effort" during the course of the race and suspended him for seven days.

The Newbury stewards, meanwhile, were advised that an inquiry should have been held to resolve the issue on the day in question.

The eyebrows of several experienced race-readers rose an inch or two in the immediate aftermath of Silken Dalliance's run, when she started among the favourites having won her previous race at Kempton. O'Donohoe's mount was slowly away, and he seemed content to track the field while making a minimum of effort throughout the remainder of the race, which he finished in 17th place.

They rose higher still when the local stewards did not hold an inquiry and a week later they were disappearing over the tops of foreheads when Silken Dalliance put that effort behind her and won a valuable handicap at Ascot's Festival meeting. She has since won another competitive race, on the Champions Day card at Newmarket.

The discrepancy with Silken Dalliance's form was such that the Jockey Club summoned those concerned to explain themselves. They were doing the job the Newbury stewards should have done and asking questions which needed to be answered on behalf of punters who backed Silken Dalliance there, and those who opposed her at Ascot as a result of her poor recent run. The verdict, it seems, is that it was all O'Donohoe's fault.

"I think we all had a fair hearing," Lord Huntingdon said. "I gave adequate instructions. The fact that Daragh was unable to follow the instructions, the committee could see, was because of a tardy break. She did half sit down in the stalls, jumped left-handed and so was unable to get into the position which we had all decided she needed.

"The instructions have always been the same with her and in three of the races the jockeys were able to follow the instructions, and this time it just didn't work out. She was obviously unlucky.

"I felt Daragh made at least three attempts to get a run. He was stopped on every occasion, and I can see that he probably accepted the situation rather further out than he necessarily would have done."

O'Donohoe was rather less forthcoming as he left Portman Square. "I am disappointed, but they have a job to do," he said. When asked whether he felt that he had been made a scapegoat, his solicitor, Andrew Chalk, stepped in and answered for him. "That is a difficult question to ask, and harder to answer," he said. "I am saying nothing."

O'Donohoe is unlikely to dwell for too long on yesterday's setback, since he is due to leave Britain in the next few weeks to spend the winter working for the Godolphin organisation in Dubai. Lord Huntingdon, meanwhile, recently announced that he is to give up training at his yard in West Ilsley, which is owned by the Queen, as a result of growing financial pressures.

In a wider sense, though, yesterday's decision is important, if only because it may increase the vigilance of local stewards. When a well-backed horse runs as poorly and with as little obvious effort punters everywhere have the right to expect an immediate interest from the officials.

The four-man panel of stewards who failed to act at Newbury included Lord Porchester, the son and heir of Lord Carnarvon, the Queen's racing manager. The disciplinary committee is to ``draw the attention'' of the Newbury panel to their view that an inquiry should have been held.

John Maxse, the Club's spokesman, said yesterday that only three of the four stewards will sit in judgement on a particular race, to allow for any potential conflicts of interest. "That's not the point here," Maxse said. "The point is that they didn't act on the day, and they will have their attention drawn to the fact that they should have done. It would have been better for racing if they had." Silken Dalliance, ridden by the apprentice Adrian Nicholls, beating Silk St John (far side) to claim a pounds 29,000 first prize at Ascot last month. Eight days earlier the winner had trailed in 17th of 19 runners in a race at Newbury Allsport