Racing: Roche loses appeal

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CHRISTY ROCHE lost his appeal against a 15-day riding ban yesterday and may now take his case to the High Court.

Despite the efforts of a formidable legal team in the course of a six-hour hearing at the Irish Turf Club offices at The Curragh, Roche failed to get the decision of the Naas stewards on 13 June overturned. The jockey lost his IR pounds 200 deposit and will have to pay legal costs which could amount to IR pounds 5,000.

The Turf Club did not outline the specifics of Roche's ban for improper riding, but the rider himself claimed he had been vindicated over his use of the whip. According to the official inquiry report, Roche remonstrated with apprentice Robbie Skelly 'in no uncertain manner' for interfering with his horse, Sophisticator.

The patrol film appears to show Roche's whip arm lash out at Skelly, riding Freeway Halo, but the former Irish champion is adamant that he did not aim a blow. 'I'm happy that I cleared my name, I hit nobody with the whip,' he said.

'But confirming the Naas suspension for improper riding is a new development and the question of going to the High Court is something I will leave to my legal team. They will make their decision in the morning after studying the Turf Club statement.'

Roche's case has already earned notoriety as his original appeal was postponed just before the Irish Derby, enabling the jockey to partner St Jovite in the race. Jim Bolger, the colt's trainer, had suggested his horse could be withdrawn if Roche was unavailable.

The suspension, which begins today, will have run out by the time Roche and St Jovite are due to be reunited on the racecourse, in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on 25 July.