Fergal Lynch, one of the three jockeys acquitted of fraud charges at the Old Bailey this month, has taken the first formal steps towards rebuilding his career. The 29-year-old Irishman, who has not ridden in public since July last year, was re-granted his licence yesterday by the sport's governing body, the British Horseracing Authority.
But although cleared of criminal charges, he may yet have to face disciplinary procedures. The BHA's legal advisors are reviewing court room evidence in relation to the rules of racing, including admissions that he placed bets.
Although Lynch has been riding out for trainers Tim Easterby and Michael Dods, he does not expect to start racing until next month. "He's planning on coming back the second or third week in January," said his agent, Alan Harrison. "He's been ticking over, but he's not 100 per cent fit. Judging from what trainers say when they phone up, I think he'll have a lot of support."
In his last full season, that of 2005, Lynch rode 77 winners from 698 rides. Last year he had 22 successes before being banned by the BHA, along with Kieren Fallon and Darren Williams, after being charged by the City of London police. The suspensions ended the day the trial collapsed; Lynch handed his licence application to the BHA public relations manager Paul Struthers outside the court.
Before yesterday's hearing, he said: "All I want to do is to be able to ride again. I want to put it all behind me; I have lost 18 months of my career."
Lynch had the rules firmly spelt out to him at yesterday's hearing, chaired by Charles Lloyd-Baker, a steward at Ludlow and three other tracks. "The licensing committee made it clear to Fergal Lynch that its role was not to consider any disciplinary matters that may or may not follow the City of London trial," said Struthers. "They are matters for consideration by the Disciplinary Panel in due course, once the review of the evidence relating to the trial is complete.
"However, the committee did need to consider whether he was a suitable person to hold a licence, particularly when considered in the context of admissions made in court. But in light of the ongoing review of evidence being undertaken, the time elapsed since the events raised in court took place, and having highlighted to Lynch the relevant rule, including new ones on inside information, the decision was taken to grant him a licence."
Williams will soon apply for his licence and he, too, expects to resume his career next month. But Fallon's next appearance before a governing body will be in France next month. The former champion, who tested positive for cocaine after a routine test at Deauville in August, has been notified that his B sample has confirmed the result.
The French authorities, France Galop, will consider the case in January. It is Fallon's second failed drugs test in France; after the first he received a six-month worldwide ban, served during his court case-related British suspension.
A jockey more happily grabbing the headlines yesterday was Lee Vickers, who notched his first success since sustaining a serious back injury last year. Two weeks after Lynch, Williams and Fallon had their licences removed, conditional rider Vickers, 30, fractured several vertebrae in a heavy fall at Southwell.
His comeback success came on 100-1 shot Anchors Away in a handicap hurdle at Catterick. "It was a long time to be out, but I never thought of giving up," he said. "It's great to be back in the routine of racing."
Though racegoers' hearts may have been with Vickers, their heads will not, as Anchors Away, gaining his first victory over obstacles at the 16th attempt, beat 10-11 favourite Bafana Boy. "It wasn't a surprise to me," said the five-year-old's trainer, Alan Brown. "He appreciated the step up to three miles plus."