Jockeys eye ‘non-trier’ rule review after Galway festival

Association concerned that riders will be punished for ‘split-second decisions’

The Jockeys Association has proposed a review of the Turf Club's new 'non-trier' rules after this summer's Galway festival.

The proposal comes on the back of the failure of Wayne Lordan's appeal against a five-day ban for his ride on the Aidan O'Brien-trained Music Box at Dundalk last week.

O’Brien’s own appeal against a €2,000 fine, and Music Box’s 42-day suspension, was also dismissed by the referrals committee panel in what was regarded as a test of the new Rule 212 introduced on January 21st.

In his judgment, the referrals committee chairman, former Supreme Court Justice Joe Finnegan, described the new rules – which refer to riders being seen to take all reasonable measures in the judgment of a reasonable and informed member of the racing public – as an objective test.

Both the jockeys and trainers bodies have expressed concern about the new rule which has dramatically increased the number of running and riding enquiries since its introduction. On Monday Aidan O’Brien expressed concern about the potential impact on jockeys trying to ride patient races.

Incorrect decision

"Our concern is the grey area when a jockey makes a decision in a race which may in hindsight be an incorrect decision," the Jockeys Association spokesman, Andrew Coonan, said on Tuesday.

“These are split-second decisions. It takes just 11 seconds to run a furlong at Dundalk. Sometimes jockeys get it wrong and we now have a situation where jockeys can be effectively penalised a minimum of five days, and a maximum of considerably more, when he’s legitimately trying to do his job.

“It’s hard for people who’ve never sat on a horse’s back to realise how fast these decisions are. And I can understand a punter who’s lost his money being angry. But is that the reasonable and informed member of the racing public that Joe Finnegan and the legislation refers to?” Coonan added.

Coonan stressed that if the new rules are judged to have a positive impact on the industry and its integrity, then it will be up to jockeys and other professionals to adapt to them. But he added that he has sought clarifications from the Turf Club on certain aspects of Rule 212.

Wrong to rush

“It would be wrong to rush out and change something simply because it doesn’t suit certain people and we have to appreciate what’s important in the overall context of what’s good for racing,” he said.

“I regard this as a review period for the legislation. If we look at this by the end of Galway [August 6th], the legislation will have had over six months and we should be looking to ask, is this good legislation or are amendments required? And everyone should be reasonable about it,” Coonan said.

Both the trainers and jockeys bodies have expressed concerns in particular about last month’s Gowran race when two of the three finishers in a Beginners Chase were penalised under the new rules.

“I don’t know if the rules were originally designed to be implemented in that way. A bad case does not make good law,” Coonan said.

“If used correctly it can be good legislation. Used incorrectly we have to remember the consequences in terms of lengthy bans on jockeys, financial penalties for trainers and significant penalties for owners,” he said.

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