Jockey Davy Russell has been given a four-day ban after a second hearing into an incident where he hit a horse on the neck, leading to a public outcry on social media.
The twice champion Irish jump jockey was originally given a caution by the Irish Turf Club after an investigation into the incident at Tramore on 18 August.
The film clip shows Davy’s ride, Kings Dolly, approaching the “show” hurdle at speed before stumbling into it. Davy then appears to strike the mare with his fist, close to the top of her neck.
The referrals committee handed Davy a caution with no further punishment on 26 August, which caused a further furore online.
After an internal review of the decision, the Turf Club said the registrar of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee had asked the appeals body to look at the referral committee’s findings.
The appeals body hearing took place yesterday (5 September) “to review the leniency of the sanction” and handed Davy a four-day ban.
In his defence, the jockey argued that he wanted the horse to focus and that it was inappropriate to use a whip in these circumstances.
A statement from the Turf Club on the decision states the appeal body expressed the view that it was a “serious matter to strike a horse, particularly in the vicinity of the head” and that the incident “should not have occurred”.
“It was noted that Mr Russell had given a frank account of what had happened. The incident and its aftermath had a serious impact on him and his family as well,” added the statement.
“The appeals body noted similar cases which had been referred to during the hearing and the sanctions that had been imposed in each case, including UK cases.
“The appeals body stated that in the present case they regarded five racedays as an appropriate sanction for such an offence in the middle range and expressed a view that few, if any, cases would merit less but that other cases may merit more.
“The appeals body stated that in arriving at an appropriate penalty, the seriousness of the offence and also to the personal circumstances of the offender, including his disciplinary history will be taken into account.
“It was noted that the delay in finalising the matter had put additional strain on Mr Russell and his family, but this was not to underplay or mitigate the offence.”
It concluded that the loss of four race days can have a “significant financial impact” on a jockey and “should not be viewed as lenient”.
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David Muir, equine consultant for the RSPCA, said he hopes lessons will be learned from the affair and the timescales involved in a reaching a final verdict.
“We’ve all got to be pragmatic about this, Davy Russell has gone through the system for the past two weeks, which has let racing down,” he said.
“If four days was the punishment on the day, there would have been no furore.
“However, because of what happened originally he’s gone through two weeks of hearings and what have you, where the end result is four days. I’ve no complaints over the punishment, but there needs to be a clear line of what is acceptable.
He added “punching horses in the head is obviously not” acceptable, and the penalty needs to be clear.
“If jockeys do that then they need to be severely punished, which is down to the Turf Club and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA),” said Mr Muir.
“Hounding a jockey is not right, which is what has happened here, so the Turf Club, and BHA, need to learn from this.”
What happened when?
18 August: Davy Russell is seen to hit his ride Kings Dolly with his fist on the top of her neck in front of a “show” hurdle ahead of the 18.35 mares handicap hurdle at Tramore.
20 August: The Irish Turf club announces it is investigating the incident
26 August: The Turf Club’s referrals committee gives Davy a caution. This is followed by an outcry online over the leniency of the punishment
30 August: The Turf Club asks its appeals body to review the “leniency of the situation” — the date for the hearing is set as 5 September at 11am
5 September: The appeals body imposes a four-day ban — 21-23 September and 25 September
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