Racing: Jockey Club closes Maguire's escape route: A harsh penalty is in prospect for the jump season's most successful rider while, in France, a famous track is doomed

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IT IS to be hoped that Adrian Maguire is not prone to paranoia. Criticism and misfortune have pursued the jockey since Saturday, and he might be forgiven for pulling the covers over his head while muttering 'they're out to get me'.

Yesterday, as expected, the Jockey Club decided to summon Maguire to a disciplinary hearing at Portman Square, probably next week, to explain his ride on Ramstar at Warwick on Saturday. Maguire appeared to strike the gelding more than 20 times after the final fence in the novice chase - though to no avail, as he finished a short-head second. While the local stewards declined to punish him, widespread ridicule of that decision has forced the Club to act.

'The stewards have decided that there are sufficient grounds for believing the rules were not properly applied,' David Pipe, the Jockey Club's spokesman, said. 'This is an unusual move but it can be compared to the Fashanu- Mabbutt incident in football. On that occasion the referee took no action but the FA decided they should investigate the matter. This procedure is a sort of belt-and-braces operation designed to protect the integrity of racing.'

Maguire will not be the only recipient of a Portman Square lecture. If, as seems likely, his punishment has been only deferred, the Jockey Club will have revoked the local stewards' ruling on a whip offence for the second time in five weeks. Set beside Declan Murphy's successful appeal against a ban imposed at Kempton on Boxing Day, Maguire's apparent let-off on Saturday is an embarrassing example of local inconsistency.

To encourage more even application of the rules, stewards' secretaries have been summoned to Portman Square on 27 and 28 January to discuss the regulations. Pipe insisted that 'the meeting was arranged a few weeks ago and has not been called because of what happened at Warwick.' Maybe not, but Saturday's events, and the furore which followed them, will at least focus minds on its urgency.

Maguire heard of his date with the disciplinarians shortly after emerging from the stewards' room at Ludlow yesterday. The officials had just disqualified his mount Konvekta King from first place in the novice hurdle, but while the bad luck continued, at least the criticism did not. Konvekta King was hanging towards the runner-up, Empire Blue, from the second-last flight, despite Maguire 'doing all he could to keep him off the other horse', according to Konvekta King's trainer, David Nicholson.

As a final slap in the face for Maguire, his main rival for the jump jockeys' title, Richard Dunwoody, rode a double at Southwell. Maguire's lead is now down to 29 - a fortnight ago it was 42 - and Dunwoody will have the field to himself when his rival starts a four-day ban (with possibly more to come) a week today. Maguire long ago proved that he has the talent to be champion. The next fortnight will show whether he has the character too.