Davy Russell gets four day ban for striking a horse
Ban begins in 14 days which leaves Russell free to ride at next week’s Listowel festival
Davy Russell has been handed a four day suspension in an Appeal Body hearing at Turf Club headquarters on Tuesday. The ban will begin in 14 days which leaves Russell free to ride at next week’s Listowel festival.
A three man panel chaired by the retired Supreme Court Justice Joseph Finnegan agreed with an appeal by the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee against the leniency of a Referrals verdict which cautioned Russell over striking a horse at Tramore last month.
That caution provoked much criticism of racing’s regulatory body and the fallout of the former champion jockey punching Kings Dolly before a race has continued to provoke a lot of comment in all forms of media.
Tuesday’s Appeals Body panel, which also included the High Court Justice, Tony Hunt, and Mr John Powell, concluded that Russell had breached Rule 272(i) which relates to conduct or behaviour prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horse racing.
In a hearing which lasted over an hour, Russell was emotional at times in outlining the impact the controversy has had on himself and his family and he was critical of media coverage describing some of it as “in my eyes disgraceful.”
Russell outlined the circumstances of what occurred before Kings Dolly’s race and the horse’s behaviour. He stressed he didn’t punch the animal in the head but on a soft part of her neck. The panel said the blow did appear to have been delivered towards the neck of the horse.
Justice Finnegan outlined how no direct comparison for this incident was available in Ireland but he pointed to an incident in July when Shane Foley struck a horse with his whip before a race and was suspended for seven days. That was reduced on appeal to five.
He also pointed to a number of cases in the United Kingdom, including that of jockey Sean Levey who got a five days suspension for striking a horse with his fist.
Justice Finnegan described Russell’s action at Tramore as “serious offence” and stressed “it ought not to have happened.” He said the panel couldn’t underplay it.
He said the panel felt in such circumstances a five day suspension for Russell would be appropriate but pointed to the length of time since the incident happened and the impact on the matter on the jockey in that time and reduced the penalty to four days.
“The general public, and the racing public, may think it lenient but we are conscious the impact of a four day suspension has in monetary terms on a jockey,” Justice Finnegan said. “It not just four days, it is four racedays.”
It is standard Turf Club practise for suspensions to begin 14 days after they have been decided.
During the hearing Russell stressed there was no malice or anger in what he did on Kings Dolly after the partnership approached a show hurdle before the race.
“When we pulled up she was being quite unresponsive and unresponsive to what I was asking her or telling her to do,” he said.
He also referred to the intense and sometimes vitriolic public comment on the matter and the impact it has had on him and his family, including his 13 year old daughter who he said is in secondary school and is “well aware” of what has happened.
He pointed to media coverage and said he and his family are “aggrieved” at the “level it has been taken to.”
Russell declined to comment to reporters immediately after the hearing