Racing: Weaver tots up lengthy ban

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The Independent Online
The Jockey Club handed down sentence on Jason Weaver yesterday, giving Frankie Dettori the chance to lay his hands on Double Trigger.

Racing's rule-making body has not yet resorted to capital punishment, but in handing out a 21-day ban to Weaver for irresponsible riding its justice mirrors that of the state in as much as terms such as totted-up penalty points and suspended sentences have now entered racing's vernacular.

Weaver's ban came after he was reported to Jockey Club headquarters at Portman Square by the local stewards at Pontefract under the totting-up procedure, introduced by the Club earlier this year. His misdemeanour, of irresponsible riding when finishing third on Sonderise at the West Yorkshire track 11 days ago, was his second such offence this season and his fourth offence in total following two bans for careless riding.

Five days of his new sentence have been suspended until 1 January, 1997, meaning that the 24-year-old will be off the course from this Saturday until Wednesday, 18 September.

He will miss the St Leger, the season's final Classic, and the ride on Double Trigger, whom he has partnered in 16 of his 17 races, in the Doncaster Cup. That mount has been offered to Frankie Dettori, himself no stranger to the stewards this season.

Weaver and Dettori had been expected to dominate the jockeys' championship this season, but injuries and suspensions have sidelined their ambitions. Weaver, with 110 winners, lies in fourth place in the jockeys' list, 30 behind the leader, Pat Eddery. Dettori is in seventh place with 74 wins.

Despite this latest setback, Weaver accepted the Jockey Club's decision with refreshing grace. "I had a fair hearing. Rules are rules," he said. "The part of my ban which is suspended for four months is usually deferred for six months but the stewards took into account my previous record as a jockey."

Under the totting-up procedure a jockey faces a minimum 14 days suspension if he is found guilty by the disciplinary committtee. Weaver's riding at Pontefract was therefore deemed itself to be worthy of a seven-day ban, although he will only serve two days if he avoids further offences this year.

That the modern Jockey Club is hardly staffed with hanging judges was illustrated later in the day when the entreaties of Richard Hills were heeded by the Club's disciplinary committee. It quashed a four-day suspension for the rider and reinstated a winner.

Hills had been found guilty of irresponsible riding on Wardara by the local stewards at Yarmouth last Thursday and was demoted from first to last.

Yesterday the interference was deemed accidental. Wardara was reinstated to first place with the dead-heating L A Touch, her stablemate, and Merrie Le Bow confirmed as joint runners-up.

The disciplinary committee's decision completed a Hills family double of successful appeals. Last month, Richard's twin brother, Michael, had faced missing the winning ride on Pentire in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes through suspension but had his ban reduced by the committee.

Wardara's trainer, Chris Dwyer, had been confident that Hills's powers of persuasion would apply equally forcefully in the committee room as in the saddle.

"I thought it was odds-on that Wardara would be reinstated and Richard would have his ban lifted," he said. "At the time I told the Yarmouth stewards they had made a dreadful mistake. The horses didn't actually touch, although they may have brushed. Richard rode a brilliant race, easing out behind the leaders to challenge.

"Unfortunately L A Touch, who shared the dead-heat and originally got the race, is no longer with me. His owner was upset about the result on the day, even though his horse shared first prize money. I think he wasn't pleased that I ran two in the race."