Walsh threat to cut rides in Britain after whip ban


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The Independent Online

Just when those embroiled in the furore over use and abuse of the whip thought it might be safe to go back in the water, anger with teeth came thrashing into view. Ruby Walsh picked up a five-day ban at Aintree yesterday for administering nine strikes, one over the eight now permitted, to Edgardo Sol, winner by a nose of the two-mile novices chase. And the Irishman, by common consent one of the best horsemen of his generation, left onlookers in no doubt as to how he felt.

After being told of his penalty, he emerged from the stewards' room, clearly furious. "Who found my ride ridiculous?" he called rhetorically. "Come on, where's this public perception we keep getting told about?" Later he added: "If that ride deserved a five day ban, then this game's fucked."

Under the contentious new rules, which limit riders in their use of the whip and apply harsh penalties for breaches, Walsh's ban was mandatory, even though one of his strikes was more for steering than stimulus. "I thought I rode a good race," he said. "I gave the horse one down the neck going to the last, which apparently counted. I'll now miss a Grade 1 chase at Down Royal and a good race at Cork. The punishment does not fit the crime."

Walsh, who splits his loyalties between the champion trainers in Britain and Ireland, Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins, may consider limiting his visits to this country. "I don't want to be coming over and getting banned in small races and missing big rides back home," he said.

Despite conciliatory words yesterday from Kevin Darley, the chief executive of the Professional Jockeys' Association, in efforts to cool the notion of a weighing room strike, there is still clearly rancour among his members. Indeed, it took calming words from Tony McCoy at Aintree to avoid a downing of saddles after Walsh's ban.

The events at Aintree, where McCoy-ridden Albertas Run won the feature chase with Walsh's mount Master Minded third, overshadowed a tantalising performance by an emerging star of the Flat at Doncaster.

Whether he becomes a racing legend or a casualty of the sport's lottery of luck, the dream for the young athlete Camelot is at least still running. The Aidan O'Brien-trained two-year-old produced a magical performance to take the Racing Post Trophy, the last top-level contest of the domestic season. Yesterday the son of Montjeu became as short as 3-1 favourite for next year's Derby.

To go for a Group 1 prize on the back of a maiden victory, and after an absence of three months, was some ask, but the elegant dark bay colt is held and he accomplished his task with ease. As soon as O'Brien's son Joseph, in the saddle, said go, he did, quickening for a two and a quarter-length victory, barely off the bridle.

But Camelot, whose sire is responsible for Derby winners Motivator, Authorized and this year's hero Pour Moi and who cost the Coolmore partners £550,000 at auction a year ago, seemed to cast a spell from day one. "Once we started with him," said O'Brein, "The data we got from the gallops, the word from the riders and times, was showing up as something out of the ordinary."

The withdrawal of lame Goldolphin contender Encke left Frankie Dettori to divert to Newbury, to mixed effect. After winning on Pimpernel, he picked up a seven-day ban for careless riding – nothing to do with whips – after the stewards deemed he had caused a rival to fall, and will miss next month's Breeders' Cup in Kentucky.