Honesty cuts no mustard for Newman

Honesty is supposed to be the best policy, although jockey Lee Newman might be wondering if it is. Newman made the unfortunate mistake at Newbury on Saturday of mistaking the half-furlong pole for the winning post. As a result he stopped riding for a few strides and his mount Russian Rave was overhauled by Chris Catlin on Our Gal.

The stewards awarded Newman a 28-day suspension, a decision that was upheld at a British Horseracing Authority disciplinary panel yesterday morning, as reported on the Guardian racing website. The panel decided that if Newman had ridden out then his horse would have won the race. Newman didn’t in any way seek to deny what he had done, and indeed, his first words at the stewards’ enquiry immediately after the race were, “I’m ashamed of myself.”

Yesterday he told the panel, “As to whether I’d have won anyway I really don’t know and that’s the truth. I was coming to the end of my tether, my horse was. When I thought it was the line, I was glad to be there. I didn’t pull her in any way, I didn’t hinder her. Obviously, I didn’t help her.”

The panel put little weight on the facts that Russian Rave’s weight of 10 stone was more than she had carried previously, and that she was racing over a mile, a furlong further than she had won over. They disregarded the Racing Post’s pre race comment that “this trip on easy ground might stretch her stamina” and their assessment that the result “may have been different” but for Newman’s error. They took no notice of winning jockey Chris Catlin’s view that he couldn’t be sure whether the error made any difference to the result.

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Instead, they honed in on the view of the BHA’s solicitor Lyn Newman that race replays showed there was “no reason to believe Newman’s horse won’t continue all the way to the line. Catlin’s horse is finding nothing.”

Newman appealed in the hope of having the length of his ban reduced, but to no avail. Unusually, though, the panel chairman, Nicky Vigors, did comment on the hearing. He said, “We appreciate your honesty and candour and are returning your deposit to you. This was a mistake which I am quite sure you’ll probably never make again. Although you have lost your appeal, you have gained respect for being honest and forthright. Go on and try your best and don’t make the same mistake ever again.”

A real piece of paternalistic advice!

Newman maintained his contrition after the hearing, saying, “I’m glad they were able to take it apart like that and go through it a bit more, help me a little bit more, let me explain better. Obviously I’m not trying to make excuses. All we wanted to do was try and clarify a few things and they came to a point and that’s it. It’s colossal (the punishment) but I suppose I deserve it, don’t I?” Some punishment, yes, but I’m sure 28 days is too long when there’s some doubt about whether the action affected the result.

There was support for Newman from Russian Rave’s trainer, Jonathon Portman, and from the owners, who have said he will keep the ride. You sense how much that means to the jockey when he describes how he felt about the impact of the error on him. He said, “I couldn’t possibly tell you what I’ve lost but it’s going to cost me more maybe than money. At the end of the day for me it’s not all about money. Obviously we need money to survive, but it’s letting down people and getting a chance to prove myself again.”

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