Trainer George Baker has hit out at the levels of prize money in the UK. Talking on Goodwin TV he said, ‘It would be wonderful if in a few years’ time on a mid-week meeting we were running around for rather more than a chocolate cake and a rosette which is what is happening now.’

He went on, ‘Prize money levels are nothing short of disgraceful, I’m concerned about the lack of transparency on the media rights from some racecourses and am hopeful we’ll see a resolution on that. We as horsemen and those who provide the product, we need what is a fair share of the action. That’s all we are asking for.’ He concluded, ‘If what we are getting now is a fair slice of the action then so be it, we just need to see the numbers then move on together’. 

Jockey Lucy Barry announced her retirement on Wednesday evening after partnering Amy Murphy’s charge Hawthorn Cottage to win the South West Syndicate Novices’ Handicap Chase at Warwick. She made virtually all on the 8/1 holding on to win by a neck at the line. The 29-year-old started her career riding point to points then kicked on as an apprentice for trainer Clive Cox. She said that her decision to quit the saddle was partly due to weight and mental health problems she’d experienced over the years as well as simply not getting enough rides. Lucy rode 37 winners in the UK over the course of her career, 19 of them on the flat in 2011. She told Racing TV that she’d ridden Melbourne 10 [ her sponsors] a winner on the flat, a bumper, over hurdles and today over fences. She said ‘Now I can hang up my boots and say I’ve done what I wanted and achieved what I wanted to achieve.’ She’ll still be involved with Melbourne 10 continuing to lead the buying and managing side of things for them on all things National Hunt Racing. Good luck to Lucy going forward. 

Jason Watson had his seven-day ban reduced to five on appeal on Thursday. It’s a fair bet that although reduced, it wasn’t the result Watson and his team had hoped for or from what I can gauge, most of racing was expecting, the ban overturned. The punishment was incurred at Nottingham when his mount, Roger Charlton’s Noisy Night, veered violently left and as he left the stalls. This left the horse, as commentator Mike Cattermole commented during the race, ‘an impossible task having blown the start.’ Watson allowed his mount to coast home at the rear of the field for the rest of the six furlong race. 

His Honour Patrick O’Mahoney chaired the independent panel at Thursday’s hearing concluded that, ‘Our view is that given where this matter stands in the context of rules, not much real damage has been done to the integrity of racing and that at the beginning of the race Mr Watson was put in a very difficult position.

Paul Struthers, the PJA’s chief executive issued a statement, saying ‘We are bitterly disappointed to have lost Jason’s appeal and struggle to understand the decision. What does the BHA and the Panel say Jason should have done? Did he need to ride hands and heels for half a furlong? A furlong? All the way to the line? Did he need to ride more vigorously than hands and heels? We are concerned that the BHA and the Judicial Panel are applying the Rules with their focus on integrity, in circumstances where in Jason’s case everyone agreed he acted in good faith. This was not a ride where integrity was an issue’.

They are also ignoring the myriad shades of grey that exist within racing. Jason’s chance had gone before the race had begun and he then acted in the best interests of the horse. After today’s ruling, how does the Judicial Panel and BHA say a jockey may act in the best interests of the horse? A reduction of a suspension from seven to five days still represents a working week where Jason will be deprived of the chance to earn his living’.

We referred the Panel to a race that had taken place at Newbury three days before the race at Nottingham. Jason rode a two-year-old in that race who caused problems immediately after the start and was subsequently ridden in an almost identical manner. The Stewards at Newbury did not find him in breach, yet the Nottingham Stewards did, even though he was beaten almost twice as far. What are jockeys supposed to make of that?

It appears ‘draconian’ for stewards to have been so harsh on Jason Watson who was to most people’s eyes putting the welfare of the horse first despite it being popular in the betting. Compare that to the occasions when a horse has been friendless in the market, then falls out of the stalls, never seen as the races, and quite often not spotted by the stewards either. 

Simon Nott


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