“Wetherby Nine” appeal fails

The British Horseracing Authority yesterday took less than 15 minutes deliberation before they dismissed the appeal of the “Wetherby Nine” jockeys against their suspension for failing to stop riding after a yellow flag was shown.

The nine jockeys, Tony McCoy, Graham Lee, Paddy Brennan, Denis O'Regan, Danny Cook, Jonathon Bewley, Alexander Voy, Brian Hughes and Brian Toomey all appealed against the decision of the Wetherby stewards to impose a ten day suspension in a race that was declared void when the yellow flag was shown.

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Although the jockeys acknowledged they had seen the flag, they said that they carried on because further down the course members of the ground staff were waving black-and-white chequered flags, signalling a hazard to be bypassed. A horse had been injured and was being treated between the final two hurdles.

Representing the jockeys, Rory MacNeice said, "I thought the evidence was overwhelming and spoke for itself. The evidence showed riders were having to react to conflicting signals. They reacted to the last signal, which was clearly deployed chequered flags, which are there to warn riders of a hazard, but not that the race should be stopped. I'm very surprised at the outcome. We wait to hear the reasons given from the BHA disciplinary panel."

MacNeice argued that had only one flag been used it would have been absolutely clear what course of action jockey should have taken. A second stewards’ enquiry on course, held without the jockeys being present, recognised that there was a problem in communication during the race between head groundsman Ian Ward, who took the decision to use the yellow flag, and acting clerk of the course Fiona Needham.

Tony McCoy, giving evidence during the two-hour hearing, told the panel that when he was preparing to ride for Brendan Powell in a later race, Powell said to him, "I was watching the race with Fiona Needham and she said to me ‘Thank God the jockeys used common sense and kept riding.’”

After hearing the result of the appeal Paddy Brennan said, "It is a big blow for everyone that the appeal failed as we are all now expected to pay for a mistake made by the racecourse. I'm very disappointed to say the least."

The disciplinary panel of Richard Gould, Sandra Arkwright and Hopper Cavendish upheld the ten-day bans, which will run from 26 October to 4 November. As a result all the jockeys will miss both the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter.

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