Disciplinary Panel lets off Scholfield and Ahern

bucket waterWhat price a bucket of water? In jockey Nick Scholfield’s case it was a six day suspension imposed by the stewards at Huntingdon after he weighed in two pounds heavier than when he weighed out.

Scholfield had ridden Soutine into third place there in The TurfTV Handicap Hurdle on 7 February, finishing 6 lengths behind second placed Promised wings. When he weighed out he was 10st 6lbs. When he weighed in after the race he was 10st 8lbs. There was never any suggestion that the extra two pounds made any difference to the finishing places in the race, but Scholfield had contravened one of the rules of racing, as the weight difference allowed is up to two pounds.

Scholfield appealed against the suspension. The facts were indisputable; surely the local stewards’ decision would be upheld. But no, a British Horseracing Authority Disciplinary Panel heard that Jamie Snowden, the trainer of Soutine, had used an exceptionally large chamois leather under the saddle, and had wetted it after Scholfield had weighed out. This had absorbed so much water that everyone, including the Clerk of the Scales at Huntingdon, recognised this had been reduced to “a sodden mass.”

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Quite why the local stewards didn’t have that piece of information isn’t clear, but the Disciplinary Panel accepted that this was a totally unusual situation and that Scholfield could not have foreseen how much water the leather would soak up. They overturned the suspension.

The Panel members must have had a particularly good breakfast that morning, for they were certainly feeling in good spirits and well disposed towards jockeys. They also heard an appeal from Eddie Ahern, who had been stood down for three days by the Kempton stewards.

His horse Viva L’Inghilterra had finished fourth in The Betdaq Casino Games Maiden Fillies’ Stakes on 6 February. Like Scholfield, Ahern had weighed in at two pounds higher than he weighed out, and as with his weighing room colleague, that happened as a direct result of the trainer’s intervention. Robert Cowell had changed some of the tack after Ahern weighed out, putting a different girth and surcingle on the horse. When this was mentioned to the Kempton stewards after the race, they had been told that both sets weighed the same, but it transpired that the second set was heavier.

Again, you can’t help but wonder how the Kempton stewards were misinformed. Were both sets weighed? Did someone just assume they weighed the same? When did the difference in weight come to light? Whatever the answer is to those questions, it was in time for Ahern’s appeal. Again, the panel found he could not be held accountable for the additional eight and quashed his three-day ban.

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