The stewards at Bangor-on- Dee three days ago objected to Maguire's ride on Malawi, beaten a neck by Beatson in the novice hurdle which opened the card. Maguire's mount drifted left and bumped Beatson, an outcome which the officials clearly felt was encouraged by Maguire's use of the whip in his right hand. Careless riding was the verdict, the jockey's second such offence of a season in its infancy, and a meaty suspension the inevitable sentence.
David Nicholson, Maguire's principal employer, saw things rather differently, however. His analysis included the words 'scandalous' and 'victimisation', and yesterday he said that 'they are doing this because he is Adrian Maguire, because of a reputation which they have given him.'
It was a suggestion which David Pipe, the Jockey Club's spokesman, swiftly denied. 'It is a load of absolute nonsense,' he said. 'Every case which comes before the racecourse stewards is considered on the facts at the time. There are over 350 stewards, and in a small area you might appear in front of an individual you have seen before. But you wouldn't get the same panel, which is one of the advantages of not having professional stewards.'
On this point, at least, Pipe is surely correct. The system of amateur, local stewards can at times produce decisions which defy rational analysis, but only the most embittered punter would see corruption at their root. Nicholson's comments are no doubt partly inspired by frustration. His yard, arguably the finest National Hunt stable in the country, is poised to move into top gear, but without the pugnacious, driven jockey whose talent is invaluable.
Maguire's only problem - if it can be described as such - is his dedication. Betting- shop punters idolise him for his commitment, and back him in the certainty that he will give his best every time. He rides many more horses than any other jump jockey, horses which, thanks to him, are generally there at the death. Maguire will probably end his career with a somewhat chequered disciplinary record, but then, the greatest jockeys generally do.
If nothing else, Maguire's regular holidays are helping to ensure that this season's jump jockeys' championship is as unpredictable as the last one, which was concluded on the weekend before the Derby. Both he and Richard Dunwoody are now quoted at 5-6 by William Hill (Maguire was a 4-6 chance before receiving his suspension).
Dunwoody rode the 1,137th winner of his career at Fontwell yesterday. Two more successes will take him past John Francome's lifetime total, and on towards Peter Scudamore's record tally of 1,677.