Racing: Ramsden's Epic Stand turns Club

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The Independent Online
Justice was finally done in the case of Epic Stand and the Newcastle stewards yesterday, but it was of a very belated and unsatisfactory kind. Lynda Ramsden, the trainer of Epic Stand, won her appeal against the gelding's disqualification from first place in the Brandling House Handicap eight days ago, and his owners will receive their prize-money in due course, but there will be no trip to the payout window for the thousands of punters who had made Epic Stand their firm 13-8 favourite for the race.

Ramsden's runner was backed from 9-4, and duly passed the post three lengths to the good, though Fergal Lynch, his jockey, had suffered some trouble in running, giving Music Express, who was already beaten, a slight brush as he worked his way to the front.

That Epic Stand had caused minor interference was never in doubt, but few observers believed that the stewards would find Lynch guilty of anything worse than careless riding, which would allow them to suspend the jockey but leave Epic Stand in his thoroughly deserved first place.

Never, ever second-guess a steward. The officials at Newcastle promptly found Lynch guilty of the more serious offence of irresponsible riding, banned him for four days and demoted Epic Stand to last place. Yesterday's hearing in front of the Jockey Club's Disciplinary Committee reversed that decision - something that the committee never does lightly - and reduced the charge back to careless riding. Lynch's suspension is unchanged, but the rightful winner can at least take his place in the form book.

"I think it's a clear case of the only irresponsibility that anybody has show, never mind irresponsible riding, was the decision of the stewards and the stewards' secretary at Newcastle," Mrs Ramsden said after yesterday's hearing. "Racing is for punters and I think they have been absolutely robbed. How can they feel happy about a bet when there are scurrilous decisions like that?"

Her point was not lost on the bookmakers, regardless of the fact that they had been spared a lumpy payout. "Epic Stand was very popular on and off the course," Rob Hartnett, the Tote's public-relations manager, said yesterday. "The Ramsden's horses are usually a warm order, and the result of the inquiry was greeted with dismay in all our shops. He was well backed, but we would rather that horses which win on their merits were to keep the race, since anything which makes the betting public think twice about racing is not a good thing.

"The connections will be pleased to get the race back, but whenever you have a bet on a horse, you almost get a little bit of ownership of it yourself, and unfortunately the tens of thousands who backed it will get nothing."

While Lynch may feel a little aggrieved that his riding ban was unaltered, there was better news yesterday for a former stable jockey to the Ramsdens, Kieren Fallon, who had appeared sure to miss both the Oaks, in which he will ride the favourite, Reams Of Verse, and the Derby thanks to a 10- day suspension imposed by stewards at the Capanelle in Rome on Sunday. Fallon had already decided to appeal against the ban, albeit with little serious hope of success, but a spokeswoman for the Italian Jockey Club, quoted in yesterday's Sporting Life, implied that even if the appeal fails, a way may be found to free Fallon for the most important weekend of the British Flat season.

"Statistically the chances of success at the hearing are very poor," the spokeswoman said, "but what can be accepted is a request to defer the suspension when there are serious reasons for doing so. The fact that a jockey has rides in important races such as the English Derby would qualify as a serious reason."

Symonds Inn, Fallon's mount in the Derby, remains among the outsiders in an almost stagnant ante-post market, although the Tote did ease Entrepreneur, the hot favourite, from 4-5 to 5-6 yesterday. Michael Stoute, the colt's trainer, did long-range punters a favour, meanwhile, by announcing that Insatiable, installed as the 12-1 favourite for the Royal Hunt Cup after landing a gamble at Sandown on Monday, is a very doubtful runner at Ascot next month.