Racing: Will to win may lose a title: Greg Wood on why camaraderie vanished in the home stretch

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ANOTHER quarter an inch of rain on Monday afternoon, and yesterday's meeting at Nottingham would surely have been abandoned. Instead, it is Richard Dunwoody's quest to retain the title of champion jockey which now seems lost, after the bizarre performance in the selling hurdle at the Midlands course yesterday which resulted in a 14-day suspension.

Precisely what went through Dunwoody's mind as Adrian Maguire tried to pass him on the inside on the approach to the second-last, only he knows. For a few costly moments, however, any cosy notions of camaraderie between jump jockeys were forgotten.

A rider has every right to defend an inside pitch, but Dunwoody's actions went much further. His mount, Raggerty, had drifted right after the previous flight, leaving plenty of room for Maguire, on Mr Geneaology, to come up his inside.

Maguire would not be the season's leading rider if he did not take such opportunities. He was going well as he came to challenge, only for Raggerty to swerve left and bump him twice as Dunwoody appeared to make no attempt to straighten his path. Maguire was forced out through the running rail at the wing of the hurdle, and was lucky to stay in the saddle. Stewards often have their eyesight and intelligence called into question, but their decision that Dunwoody had caused intentional interference seemed wholly justified.

That Maguire's mount was an odds-on favourite only compounded Dunwoody's 'crime' for many spectators.

For Dunwoody, normally considered to be the most elegant jockey around, to be suspended for a fortnight when a whip offence may incur only a couple of days might seem unfair.

Causing intentional interference, though, is in many ways the worst riding offence of all, as it is deemed to be calculated, rather than the unforeseen result of an overeagerness to succeed.

What is almost impossible to fathom is why a jockey of such skill and experience should risk a riding ban so close to the Festival. For the sake of the Junior Selling Hurdle, worth pounds 2,250, Dunwoody has sacrificed a string of excellent mounts at the most valuable meeting of the year. And he didn't even keep the race.

The only apparent answer is that the fierce competitive spirit which has kept Dunwoody at the top for a decade will not allow even the smallest event to get away without a struggle, no matter what the risk. Yesterday, he gave it too much rein.

It is the same will to win, perhaps, which caused Paul Gascoigne to make a rash challenge in the World Cup semi- final in the full knowledge that a yellow card could cost him a place in the final.

We should be thankful, at least, that Dunwoody didn't cry.

(Photograph omitted)