Racing’s image was tarnished this week when jockeys took the wrong course in farcical circumstances at Ludlow and Towcester, incurring the wrath of the stewards and punters.
Seven jockeys were suspended for 19 days each and their mounts disqualified for taking the wrong course in the selling hurdle at Ludlow on Thursday.
This drama followed four days after the first five home in an amateurs’ race at Towcester were disqualified. Two such comical incidents left racing looking amateurish in the extreme.
The low Towcester sun blinded the amateurs and was a mitigating circumstance, which got them off the hook. There were no suspensions.
But the Ludlow drama was different. The third last hurdle was being dolled off while the unconscious Claire Stretton lay on the ground after taking a crashing fall on the first circuit.
James Davies on Seraph and Anthony Evans on Diamond Orchid led the field and decided to go inside the wing and on to the chase course. Timmy Murphy, Mark Nicolls, Marcus Foley, Gabriel Hannon and Paddy Brennan followed them.
But Rodi Greene took the correct course on Dream Falcon and passed the post first. Robert Thornton on La Rose and Carl Llewellyn on Margarets Wish finished right out the back. But they pursued the line taken by Greene and were promoted to second third, respectively.
Murphy, the most high-profile jockey involved in the chaos, described the outcome as a “complete joke”. “He said: “It’s not as if we took the wrong course on purpose. I think I’ll appeal against the severity of the suspension.”
The suspensions run from December 29 to January 19, excluding January 11.
John Maxse, director of public relations at the Jockey Club, said at Ascot on Friday: “The ultimate responsibility lies with the jockeys and it should not have to be an exercise in orienteering to show them where to go when something like this happens.
“The procedures at Ludlow were carried out correctly and the jockeys got it wrong. We will look and see if we can make it easier for jockeys when part of course has to be dolled off.”