Soumillon has Eclipse ban reduced to eight days

Christophe Soumillon had his suspension for careless riding aboard Coral-Eclipse hero Vadeni reduced from 12 to eight days following an appeal hearing on Thursday morning.

The Belgian-born rider steered Jean-Claude Rouget’s French Derby winner to a thrilling win, however, the Sandown stewards were of the opinion he had caused “significant interference” to both the third-placed Native Trail and the fourth home Lord North as he celebrated becoming the first French-trained winner of the race since 1960.

Charlotte Davison, who presented the British Horseracing Authority’s case in an appeal heard in front of an independent disciplinary panel, said the ruling body’s position was that the on-course stewards were correct in giving Soumillon a 12-day ban and that the decision should be upheld.

Soumillon admitted wrongdoing on the day of the race, but appealed against the penalty as he felt the severity of the suspension was harsh.

Appearing via Zoom from France, Soumillon said: “Like I said to the stewards straight away after the race, and seeing the images again today, you can see that I made a mistake, that’s for sure.

“I didn’t know how many horses were on my inside. We have seen the videos at quarter speed, but the thing you have to remember is I’m riding at full speed and I never saw that between Mr (William) Buick (on Native Trail) and the rail there was Mr (James) Doyle (on Lord North). I should probably look, but I didn’t.

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“For sure the images after the line are not good, not for racing and not for myself, but nothing was done on purpose and I really try to give my sport the best image I can.

“For me it was the chance for one of the biggest days of my career, as it is not easy for a three-year-old colt coming from France to win one of the hardest races in the UK. This race wasn’t won by a French horse for 60 years and probably I over celebrated the moment. My kids were there and there was a lot of emotion for me that day.

“It is like a soccer player in a final scoring a goal, they know they can’t take their shirt off to celebrate but sometimes someone does it. It’s not normal, but when the pressure is let out, it’s like a champagne bottle going – that’s what I felt going past the line.”

Christophe Soumillon with his children at Sandown
Christophe Soumillon with his children at Sandown (Nigel French/PA)

Soumillon revealed he contacted connections of Native Trail and Lord North to check both horses had emerged from the incident unscathed.

He added: “The day after the race I called Mr (Charlie) Appleby (trainer of Native Trail) and Mr (John) Gosden (trainer of Lord North) for news about the horses and I know both horses were doing well after the race, so that was a relief as if I heard one of these champions had got hurt from one of my little mistakes, it would have been very hard for me to understand.

“The suspension is probably the hardest I have had in my career. I’m not somebody who puts my colleagues in danger in any part of the race.

“Twelve days is probably a hundred rides for me as I’m riding eight races a day. If you have to give me a suspension I can accept it, but I don’t think it was that bad on the day – I think it was very severe for somebody who didn’t do it on purpose.

“I think I was professional for 99.8 per cent of the race. Unfortunately, for three strides I wasn’t completely concentrated and that little fraction makes it look worse than what it really is.”

Following a period of deliberation, disciplinary panel chairman James O’Mahony confirmed the suspension would be reduced.

He said: “Generally, of course, Monsieur Soumillon is a much respected horseman and jockey and as can be expected of him, he addressed us with courtesy and realism, accepting what he had done is wrong and we detected significant remorse.

“There’s a lot of common ground here. This is careless riding, no one suggests otherwise, the interference was considerable, no one suggests otherwise, and there was irresponsible behaviour, as Monsieur Soumillon has accepted.

“But, and there is a big but, there is in this case a very significant safety risk and Mr Soumillon and Vadeni are included in this. Mercifully, nobody went down and there were no injuries.

“The actual time of which his riding of the horse can be considered irresponsible and indeed careless was very short. Considering all these matters, and baring in mind the mitigation and the aggravating factors, we’re going to allow the appeal and do feel the sentence was too severe.

“The panel order that the period of suspension should be one of eight days, thus the appeal succeeds.”

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