Kieren Fox decided it would be better to face the wrath of his sister in law and miss her wedding rather than pass up the ride on Richard Guest’s Barnet Fair at Ascot on Saturday. He might be half pleased with his decision, as the pair got up on the line to win the £100,000 Betfred Mobile Sports Handicap.
The victory was the biggest of his career, and took Fox to a total of 99. But the race also brought him up in front of the stewards for a third time in recent months, and with it a seven-day ban for overuse of the whip. Fox, who along with Richard Hughes, was caught out on the first day the rules were tightened up last October, took a break from the sport over the winter to have time with his young family.
He’s continued to have difficulty adjusting to the new limits on employing the whip, and Saturday’s ban was the third since he returned to racing in the spring. He told the Racing Post, “I need some advice as the rules aren’t going to change, but I don’t know who I should go to, or who will have the time to help. You can practice all you like on an Equicizer, but it’s completely different to the real deal.”
Now that might sound like a sensible move for the 23-year-old jockey, but it’s actually quite difficult to have much sympathy for him. Earlier this year all flat race jockeys had to attend a seminar where the whip rules was one of the subjects covered. True, the explanations were about what can and can’t be done, whereas Fox appears to have a problem with the actual doing. But despite reminders from both the British Horseracing Authority and the Professional Jockeys’ Association Fox failed to go to any of the seminars, and as a result he was stood down for five days earlier this month.
It can’t help that he can’t get into a proper rhythm of regular riding; he’s now banned from 3 to 18 August except for one day. And without that regular race riding there’s an increasing risk of a fourth ban in six months, and an automatic referral to the BHA, just the thing he wants to avoid.