Johnson’s training career in the balance

A second day of evidence in the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) disciplinary hearing of County Durham trainer Howard Johnson proved insufficient to reach any conclusions. The investigation has been adjourned to a date in either August or September.

Johnson is answering charges that he ran a horse, Striking Article, eight times after an operation to remove the nerves in one of its legs. This falls outside the rules of racing as it brings an increased risk of injury to both horse and jockey, as the animal is able to run without feeling pain.

Paul Struthers, head of communications for the BHA explained why the panel was unable to complete its investigations. "There were unforeseen issues arising in respect of a witness before proceedings began yesterday, and whilst both sides were confident that the hearing would still conclude in time, some of the other evidence presented and witness examinations took longer than anticipated."

The BHA was critical of a BBC News report on the case which was broadcast on Wednesday evening. This had also highlighted racing's recent issues with racehorse deaths and whip abuse. "The report ended by saying racing has to prove that it's as much about welfare as about winning, and I don't think that's fair. This isn't something that we just started doing. If you look through the 'disciplinary panel' section of our website, you'll see countless instances from the past where we've found breaches of welfare rules and come down on it very hard. This isn't some reaction to a bit of adverse publicity. Welfare has always been a priority for us."

He added that as Johnson had been charged in January, immediately after the post mortem on Striking Article had brought to light the operation, this case could not in any way be linked to those other issues.

For the time being, Johnson is in limbo, able to train and run horses, but waiting to learn his fate once the hearing is able to re-convene and finish taking evidence.

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