A date for the referral hearing into the start of Saturday’s Grand National will be set in the next two days. The hearing was passed on to the British Horseracing Authority after jockeys chose not to go back to see the stewards at Aintree after an initial inquiry had been adjourned while they considered the matter.
Officials called the inquiry after the starter reported that the riders had lined up and proceeded towards the start despite being advised by the assistant starter that it was not yet race time. The stewards’ report said that when the riders moved forward towards the start they knocked down the assistant starter, Simon McNeill, thereby compromising the welfare of an official.
After taking evidence from the riders and the starting team, the stewards adjourned the inquiry. The report said that when stewards tried to reconvene the inquiry after the last race, the riders, who had not been given permission to leave the course, refused to attend.
“There has been no chance to arrange a date yet. It will take a couple of days,” said BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey. “It’s going to be complicated because the jockeys will need to work out between them who’s coming, how many of them are coming and when it is suitable. The hearing will consider the start and what prompted the initial inquiry and also the events which unfolded during and after the stewards’ inquiry.”
Leighton Aspell, who rode Pineau De Re to victory, said: “It’s a very high pressure situation. Everybody is geed up, they’ve got their plans and it’s a very fine line. We’re talking fractions of a second away from it [the start] being perfect. The second time it was almost perfect again, but the tape caught one of the horses. No jockey wanted this. We all got briefed and we all wanted to get off to a good start.”
Former champion jockey Peter Scudamore, whose son Tom rode The Package to a 12th-place finish, told BBC Radio 5 the start had been a result of an “archaic” system. “We’re in 2014 and have not got a system that works,” he said. “It’s depressing. I don’t blame the starters, the starters’ assistants or the jockeys. We have an archaic system that is not fit for purpose.”