Johnson faces a lengthy holiday

 

David Nicholson will suffer the temporary loss of another stable jockey after Richard Johnson's referral to Portman Square for whip abuse at Cheltenham yesterday.

Johnson looked set to harvest the chief benefit of Adrian Maguire's decision on Tuesday to relinquish his position as Nicholson's stable jockey.

But he will spend 14 days and upwards kicking his heels under suspension if the disciplinary committee backs the view of the Cheltenham stewards that Johnson transgressed the stick rules on Jathib - trained by Martin Pipe - who finished a close third to Eirespray in the featured Unicoin Chase.

If Johnson, who made no comment, feels the need of a sentencing guide, he will doubtless look at the last high-profile whip referral to Portman Square, which featured champion jockey Tony McCoy. The Irishman left the Jockey Club with an 18-day ban, of which four days were themselves suspended.

Eirespray's jockey Joe Tizzard was also banned for three days (January 11th to 13th inclusive) after getting his mount up to win by a head in a stirring finish from Mr Strong Gale and Jathib.

Meanwhile, Maguire began the New Year in much the same vein as he has spent the last five old ones - riding a winner for Nicholson - and continued as he will no doubt spend a significant part of the next five, emerging victorious on an animal saddled by someone else.

In the wake of the Maguire resignation, Nicholson was adamant he would continue to partner the Jackdaws Castle horses, and the pair combined for their first success since the split as Baronet bolted home in the Miles Gosling Handicap Chase over four miles and a furlong, forging a length and three-quarters clear of Him of Praise on the run-in.

Maguire, who rode Baronet to victory in the Scottish Grand National in the spring, said: "This horse has been good to me and the faster the ground, the better.

"I have won twice on him and I won't forget the time before today." Maguire had cited "repeated press speculation" as his reason for stepping down and Nicholson is evidently "off" the fourth estate at the moment, offering a curt "thank you" upon being congratulated on his victory by journalists - although one of their number got a response which fell someway short even of that.

The reception which greeted Maguire after Baronet's success is normally heard here only in March, and it was the same after Linden's Lotto, trained in Ireland by Tony Martin, had justified 13 to 8 favouritism in the Sporting Index Select Chase over the cross country course.

The Irishman was visibly buoyed by the support and was anxious to let his public know.

"I would just like to thank everyone who has 'phoned me and written to me and come up to me on the racecourse," he said. "I am absolutely thrilled to bits."