Racing: Jockey Club accused of bias as Akehurst loses appeal: Knowth's trainer blames unhealthy Headquarters influence as a costly demotion is upheld

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The Independent Online
RACE RELATIONS were unsteadied again yesterday when Reg Akehurst, the Epsom trainer, accused the Jockey Club of bias towards Newmarket trainers after losing his appeal against last week's disqualification of Knowth at Goodwood.

The Jockey Club was founded at Newmarket in the mid-1750s and there are trainers from other parts of Britain who feel racing's rulers have never lost an affinity for the town of their birth.

Only recently another Epsom trainer, Geoff Lewis, criticised the Jockey Club Estates, a subsidiary of the Portman Square organisation, for sending owners a brochure extolling the virtues of Headquarters. Lewis described this exercise was 'unethical' and said the attempt to attract owners away from the smaller yards was like 'taking from Peter to feed Paul'.

Akehurst returned to this theme yesterday. Everybody was aware, he said, that the Jockey Club Estates had solicited racehorse owners around the country suggesting that they have their horses trained at Newmarket. 'They do seem to like to promote Newmarket and I'm sure this did not help me in the inquiry.'

Akehurst felt he had several opponents in the opposite corner as Rose Alto, the horse which was promoted from second place to first place after Knowth's disqualification, is trained at a Newmarket stable and owned by cousins of Lord Vestey, a Steward of the Jockey Club.

'They listened to everything we said, but we lost of course,' he said. 'If it had been in a court with a judge and jury we would have won, but you just can't beat the system. I went ahead with this appeal because of the weight of opinion for us and despite what's happened I would do the same thing again.'

Akehurst's deposition also included the unlikely contention that George Duffield, the rider of Rose Alto, had broken the rules, by taking the ground of two other horses during the Goodwood race.

David Pipe, the Jockey Club's spokesman, said Akehurst's suggestions of an unfair hearing were groundless. 'What the Jockey Club Estates do would have no bearing on this case,' he said.

'They are a subsidiary of the Jockey Club, but they have their own board and make their own decisions. They were carrying out a marketing and promotional exercise when they wrote to owners about having their horses trained in Newmarket.'

Pipe emphasised that Lord Vestey was 'not involved in this case in any way at all'.

The Club's disciplinary committee took 90 minutes to confirm the Goodwood stewards' ruling that Danny Wright, Knowth's apprentice jockey, had been guilty of careless riding in allowing his mount to hamper Rose Alto. The disqualification means the gelding's owners will collect only pounds 11,775 instead of the pounds 39,168 first prize.

The frustration for Wright, Akehurst, Knowth's owners and everyone who backed the gelding was magnified by the fact that Knowth was palpably the best horse in last Tuesday's William Hill Cup. While the Jockey Club could claim the local stewards acted within the letter of the law, they would have less success in persuading observers that the law is just.

While Akehurst's attempt to embarrass the Goodwood stewards failed, there was a group of men who stepped in to do the job for him: the Goodwood stewards. For Wright received the salt- in-the wound treatment yesterday, having an initial caution over the offence turned into a one-day riding ban following the revelation that the local stewards had mistakenly believed he was a 7lb claimer.

(Photograph omitted)