The Indian racing authorities have been in touch with the British Horseracing Authority to ask them to reciprocate a 50-day riding ban imposed on Richard Hughes in Mumbai last month. If they do follow suit, Hughes will not be able to start his season here until 30 April.
Hughes was suspended for failing to ride to his trainer’s instructions, a rule which is peculiar to India. But at the moment, it isn’t exactly clear what the ban actually amounts to. Racing only take place two days a week in Mumbai, and Hughes has been stood down for 15 meetings. It will take seven weeks for those meetings to take place, hence the 50-day ban.
He is already nearly one month into the ban, but if the remainder were to be served back in the UK, does it apply for the whole of the 50 days, or for 15 meetings? Or is it 15 days less how ever many he has missed in India since the ban was imposed?
Speaking for the BHA yesterday, Director of Communications Robin Mounsey said, “We’ve had the request for reciprocation from India and at this point we are reciprocating the 50 day ban to April 30. However, we’ve had notice from Richard Hughes that he’s going to ask us not to reciprocate it and will schedule a meeting as soon as possible.”
To succeed Hughes will have to show that the process applied by the Indian authorities was demonstrably unfair. Hughes, who has ridden in India for 20 years during our winter, will draw on the experience of Kevin Darley 25 years ago. He was alleged to have stopped a horse, and had a 12-month suspension imposed. But that was reduced to three months on appeal in India, and relaxed further by the Jockey Club so that he could work in stables for the last three weeks of his ban.
Hughes will also argue that it was unfair that he was not allowed any legal representation when the case was heard in India. Only if these claims are dismissed will there be a debate about the period of time he still has to serve.