Racing: Lost appeal saves St Leger sponsorship

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TIM WATTS, the chairman of Pertemps, who sponsor the St Leger, yesterday said his firm would continue its support of racing after losing his appeal against the disqualification of Muhtafel, a horse they had leased for the day, in the race following the St Leger at Doncaster on 12 September. And the Jockey Club, after delivering its ruling, reiterated its pledge to punish "win at all costs" race-riding with disqualification.

Muhtafel, leased by the employment agency, which also sponsors Kempton's Christmas Festival - was first past the post in the Ladbroke Handicap, for which he was backed from 8-1 to 6-1, largely by guests of the sponsors. However, the stewards found Jimmy Fortune guilty of "major irresponsible" riding on Muhtafel, placed the horse last and gave his jockey a five- day ban.

Watts labelled the stewards' ruling "sheer lunacy". But yesterday Watts' appeal, was dismissed by the Jockey Club's Disciplinary Committee after a hearing at Portman Square. Watts, who did not attend, had been adamant Pertemps would remain in racing only if his appeal failed, and he affirmed yesterday: "The Pertemps King George goes ahead. Every sport has laws and I accept the decision. We are disappointed, but it was not unexpected. I was warned they stick together like glue and logic has got nothing to do with it."

Fortune, whose suspension was ordered to stand, said: "It was a 50-50 case and that's the way it is. There is nothing else I can say."

John Maxse, Public Relations Officer at Portman Square, argued: "A `win at all costs' style of race-riding is not acceptable, and we believe the most effective deterrent against jockeys endangering other riders and their mounts is the threat of demotion or disqualification. Both the Doncaster stewards and the disciplinary committee were of the view that Jimmy Fortune created a gap where one had not existed, and as a result his riding offence fell into the category of `major irresponsible'. The Jockey Club is aware of the interests of the betting public. However, the Jockey Club must balance the interests of the punter with those of the participants and their safety."

Maxse rejected Watts's allegations that the stewards had a political agenda. He said: "The disciplinary committee's findings support those of the Doncaster panel and proves that racecourse stewards judge each incident on its merits, regardless of those concerned."