Severe ban for tardy O'Dwyer


The GOLD CUP-winning jockey Conor O'Dwyer was hit with a massive suspension of 21 race days at Punchestown yesterday which means he will not be able to ride in Ireland until New Year's Eve.

O'Dwyer, who was due to ride Imperial Call in Cork yesterday until that meeting was cancelled, picked up the ban in the INH Novices Hurdle on the Christy Roche-trained That's Fine By Me.

The horse finished third to the odds-on Kings Banquet but he and O'Dwyer returned to catcalls and sarcastic applause from a section of the crowd around the parade ring.

That's Fine By Me was a distant fourth as the three leaders turned into the straight but the gap closed rapidly on the run to the last. After the last, That's Fine By Me ducked in behind Empor Star and The Mall before running on the outside to take third behind the eased-down winner.

The stewards decided that the horse had been ridden in a manner which did not allow him run on his merits and banned O'Dwyer from November 11th to December 29th inclusive. That's Fine By Me was also banned from racing for 60 days. O'Dwyer immediately indicated that he will appeal the severity of the sentence.

The jockey admitted to the stewards that it was as bad a ride as he had given a horse in a long time and that it was an injudicious ride. However, he was definite that he would not have won as the winner could have won by a lot further.

Afterwards O'Dwyer told reporters: "I have to appeal the severity. I remember, when the race-day suspension system was introduced, urging the stewards to use their discretion because there is racing only two to three days a week in Ireland. Twenty-one straight days would have been OK but not race days."

O'Dwyer is still free to ride in Britain on days when there is no racing here.

Christy Roche described the ban as very hard. "I gave Conor no instructions because he knows the horse well. When he came back he told me he'd made a mess of it and there's no doubting it looks terrible."