Richard Hughes is waiting for advice from his legal team as to whether there is any further action he can take to have the 50-day ban imposed by the Indian racing authorities reduced in Britain. As things stand Hughes cannot ride until 30 April.
The Royal Western India Turf Club Ltd (RWITC) banned him on 15 February for failing to ride his mount Jacqueline Smile to the instructions of trainer H J Antia. Although there is no equivalent rule in British racing, the authorities in any country are able to ask for any ban they award to be reciprocated, and this is what has happened to Hughes.
After an unsuccessful appeal in India Hughes asked the BHA not to apply the ban here, but a disciplinary hearing last week did not support his request. Yesterday the British Horseracing Authority revealed the grounds of his appeal and their reasons for turning it down.
David Fish QC, representing Hughes, put forward four separate reasons why Hughes should be able to resume riding immediately.
1. Hughes had been denied legal representation at the hearings in India Nobody disputes that this is the case, but it is something expressly forbidden by the rules of the RWITC. Hughes understood this and accepted that he would be riding to those rules when taking out his licence in India. And as the BHA pointed out, English law does not require private disciplinary hearings to allow people to be represented by a practising lawyer.
2. The trainer, H J Antia, did not attend the appeal hearing on 11 March Again, all parties accept this, so the question that arises is whether this hindered a thorough examination of all the evidence at that hearing. However, the trainer had answered questions at both the stewards’ enquiry shortly after the race and at the subsequent hearing. The records of those meetings show Hughes and Antia had the same understanding of the trainer’s instructions for the jockey. On that basis the panel reached the conclusion that Hughes had not been unfairly affected by the trainer’s absence from the appeal hearing.
3. Local stewards placed too much emphasis on the trainer’s riding instructions. Fish argued that the stewards should have taken more account of whether Hughes had done all he could to give his mount the opportunity of obtaining the best possible placing in the race. Well, Mr Fish, read the charge sheet! This wasn’t on it. But all the considerations of the RWITC stewards did examine why Hughes departed from the instructions he had been given. They didn’t accept them as reasonable, and felt Hughes could have done more to place his horse where instructed in the early part of the race.
4. The length of the penalty was disproportionate. Here, representations centred around the length of a ban in the UK for failing to ride to obtain the best possible placing, which ranges from 7-21 days. Did this provide a reason for not reciprocating the ban for its full period? Fish argued it did, whilst the BHA’s counsel, Graeme McPherson disagreed, saying that any length of ban, if legitimately imposed by the rules of racing elsewhere, should be applied in full. The Panel took the view that the difference between the suspension imposed by the RWITC and what might have been imposed here was no so great to justify them interfering with it.
The decision left Hughes frustrated. He said, “My legal team has the reasons and are looking at them. You have to be intelligent to read them, but I do know the difference between 50 days and 10 days. At the moment I don’t really know what’s happening.
Setting aside this particular set of circumstances, the case does raise the question of why racing doesn’t have a set of rules that apply worldwide. Is it a unique sport in not doing so?