Racing: Thornton wins whip argument with Club

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ANDREW THORNTON yesterday achieved a success even more remarkable than if he had managed to win last Saturday's Murphy's Gold Cup. He got a result at the Jockey Club. Thornton was cleared of using his whip with excessive force on Stormy Passage in an unsuccessful pursuit of The Outback Way in the big race at Cheltenham.

The rider, who had been referred to the Jockey Club's disciplinary committee by the Cheltenham stewards, became the first jockey to escape punishment when referred under the Jockey Club rule introduced last March covering big races. Timmy Murphy, Barry Fenton and Philip Robinson had each received 10-day bans when appearing at Portman Square.

Thornton, who did not opt for legal representation, said: "It shows you can come to Portman Square and you can get a fair hearing, which I did. I am pleased I represented myself and spoke through what I thought I'd done correctly.

"This sport is all about opinions and I respect what the stewards have got to do. They have got the welfare of the horse to take into consideration, and they are only doing their job. I respect that enormously as it is very, very difficult.

"I put my opinion forward today and the disciplinary committee found that I wasn't in breach, so I am a very happy man."

Thornton added that a letter from Malcolm Wallace, the Jockey Club's Director of Regulation, which was published in the Racing Post yesterday morning and erroneously referred to the rider's suspension, had not been prejudicial. As that newspaper's letters page also contained a torrent of missives supporting the popular jockey the effect was probably evened up.

"Malcolm Wallace's letter in the Racing Post had no effect on the outcome whatsoever," Thornton declared. "I would like to thank all the people who have supported me through this. I have had half a dozen letters from trainers supporting me and I am very pleased to read the comments in the paper today from the public and owners.

"I am relieved to clear my name as I am a horseman and the last thing I wanted to do was be off for 10 days when racing is at its busiest."

Thornton appeared before the Jockey Club under a rule which in National Hunt racing covers Grade One contests and races worth in excess of pounds 80,000, into which category the Murphy's Gold Cup falls.

John Maxse, the Jockey Club's spokesman, said: "Each case is treated on its merits and in this instance the committee were of the view that Andrew Thornton was not in breach of Instruction H9."

The trainer Saeed bin Suroor was fined pounds 1,000 by the disciplinary committee over a drugs test given by Royal Line who tested positive for the prohibited substance pentoxifylline after winning the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket's July meeting. It was the first time a Godolphin horse had failed a post- race test.

Bin Suroor was fined pounds 750 for the offence and had to pay a further pounds 250 for failing to keep a proper medication record as required under Jockey Club rules. Godolphin admitted responsibility for the failed drugs test prior to the hearing, after which their spokesman, Simon Crisford, declined to comment.