Davy Russell case has turned into a 'two week press-fest'
Controversy over Tramore incident rumbles on with appeal due to be heard next Tuesday
“When a rider goes out, he is open to all scrutiny. Everyone at the track, everyone on TV, gets to see, by and large, every movement that he makes. Everything they do is scrutinised.”
The organisation that represents jockeys in Ireland has said the controversy over Davy Russell striking a horse with his fist at Tramore two weeks ago is a reflection of the unparalleled scrutiny riders now deal with.
Russell will face an Appeals Body hearing at Turf Club headquarters on Tuesday morning after the decision by racing’s regulatory body to review the leniency of last week’s Referrals Committee verdict which handed the former champion jockey a caution for his conduct at Tramore.
That decision was heavily criticised with contrasts to the seven day ban that flat jockey Shane Foley received in July for striking an unruly mount with his whip before a race - reduced to five days on appeal - widely made.
The Secretary of the Irish Jockeys Association said on Friday he fears Russell could face a suspension on Tuesday and that it is the Turf Club’s aim the penalty should be increased. Andrew Coonan added it is the levels of examination jockeys face that is especially troubling to IJA members.
“There are a mix of views among members in terms of the rights and wrongs of what went on that day at Tramore specifically. But generally speaking they are concerned about the level of scrutiny every time they go out to race.
“When a rider goes out, he is open to all scrutiny. Everyone at the track, everyone on TV, gets to see, by and large, every movement that he makes. Everything they do is scrutinised. But those who are not a visually obvious to people, the stewards on the day, officials etc, they don’t come under the same scrutiny,” he said.
“The riders point of view is that everyone has their opinion, and is entitled to have their opinion, and every journalist will write about it.
“With this saga, in what ultimately I have to say is not a huge matter in terms of the integrity of racing, and I’m not commenting on what he did, I’m talking about the integrity of racing.
“A far bigger offence is seeking to prevent a horse running on his merits, or something that is significantly damaging to the reputation of racing. They’re significant issues. But something of this nature gets highlighted, it gets magnified, and the jockey is open to every opinion out there.
“So he never leaves the public domain. He’s trying to do a professional job. His function is to get out there and do the best he can every time he can, for punters, for the owner, for the trainer, while still having to cope with the pressure of this microscope that’s on him.
“And very few others in racing ever come under that microscope, to the same extent. We often have a situation where decisions are made, nobody can fully understand it but we move on, talk about it a little bit and move on to the next situation.
“That doesn’t happen with jockeys. They make an error, it’s picked up. It’s discussed, it’s analysed, it’s considered, and as we see here in these circumstances it drags into a two week press-fest.
“That is a cause for concern among riders. If it is considered an error is made, and I think Davy was very fair in his evidence, that with hindsight he might have done things differently. But you don’t get away with making a mistake if you’re a jockey. You’re absolutely open to every view that’s out there,” he added.
Coonan said he felt the suspension Foley received was excessive in comparison to similar type cases and it was those lesser penalties which reflected the penalty Russell was given last week.
“Obviously the Turf Club feel the penalty was too light. But if anyone bothered to look at precedent cases here there is evidence of penalties of that level being given out. I would be concerned the penalty on Davy will be increased and its quite clearly the aim of the Turf Club that that penalty would be increased,” he declared.
Coonan also added that Russell wouldn’t be human if he wasn’t feeling the pressure of a controversy that has run for the last two weeks. The Gold Cup winning rider is set to race at Wexford on Saturday where he is booked for four mounts.
Russell misses out on the eight runner novice chase where the in-foal Sharlanda will try to maintain her recent good form for local trainer Colin Bowe.
Willie Mullins pitches Dicosimo into this race, a horse who has flattered in the past but whose second to Peregrine Run at the track during the summer reads impressively in this context.
Principal Irish interest in Britain on Saturday will revolve around Romanised’s attempt on the Group Three Solario Stakes for juveniles.
Ken Condon’s colt finished sixth behind Sioux Nation in the Phoenix Stakes last time and prior to that was seventh in Royal Ascot’s Coventry Stakes.
“Dropping him into Group Three level and stepping up to seven furlongs will hopefully see where he fits,” the Curragh trainer said. “He’s rated 107. For a two year old that should give him a good chance at that level.”