Hughes Indian ban could scupper British Championship chances

Is there any sport other than racing where individual national governing bodies can set different rules? Richard Hughes, who regularly spends each winter riding in India, has been having problems with the local stewards there during the past few weeks.

In January he was suspended for nine racing days for using the whip in the forehand position on the shoulder of his mount Mountain Regiment at Mumbai races. An appeal saw that ban reduced to a fine of Rs.3000, around about £1300. Well, suspensions from misuse of the whip happen wherever you are.

Now though, he’s fallen foul of a rule that as far as I know exists only in India. In racing there, trainers set out how horses to be ridden in the race, and if a jockey doesn't follow those instructions he can be punished. To enforce the rule, stewards stand in the ring before a race with trainers and jockeys as instructions are issued.

Hughes has been suspended after Jacqueline Smile, the well-supported 12/10 favourite finished only third, beaten 10 lengths, behind her nearest rival Faramarz, priced 7/2. After an enquiry the stewards of the Royal Western Indian Turf Club suspended Hughes for the 15 days of racing scheduled for Mumbai between 11 March and 29 April.

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Racing suspensions are usually reciprocated, and therefore Hughes could be banned from racing at the start of the turf season back here in Britain. It's not clear whether any suspension would apply for the whole period or just for 15 days, so it’s no surprise that Richard Hannon's stable jockey is mounting an appeal.

The British Horseracing Authority ducked the question of how the suspension might be applied. Robin Mounsey, speaking for the BHA, said, "The BHA is yet to be informed of any suspension which may have been received by Mr Hughes in India. Hypothetically, and pending any appeals, in situations such as this we will be informed by the relevant racing authority as to how they would like a suspension to be reciprocated in other jurisdictions, and will subsequently uphold it in the manner requested."

As Hughes rides so regularly in India you would expect him to know the local rules thoroughly, a point Mounsey made when he set out circumstances in which a jockey might successfully appeal to have the reciprocation process disregarded. "For such an appeal to be successful they (the jockey) would need to provide grounds as to why we should not acknowledge the ban which under normal circumstances would be reciprocated – for example, if they can prove that the disciplinary process was demonstrably unfair. However, it must be taken into consideration that when a jockey chooses to ride in an internationally recognised turf authority, then it is assumed that they choose to accept beforehand, all rules and standard disciplinary procedures which are in place in that country. Ultimately, though, each case would be considered on its individual merits."

An early suspension, possibly for the whole the first month of the new season, would not do Hughes’ chances of becoming champion jockey for the first time any good at all. Bet 365, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power all recognised this and pushed him out to 4/1 for the championship. William Hill on the other hand must be confident that any appeal will be successful, as they still have Hughes as their 5/2 favourite.

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