Jockey Paul Townend has apologised for a “genuine mistake” after a bizarre manoeuvre caused chaos at Punchestown on Tuesday (24 April).
As the field approached the final fence in the Growise Champion Novice Chase, Paul suddenly swerved his ride, the Willie Mullins-trained Al Boum Photo, across the track.
They bumped into Finian’s Oscar, ridden by Robbie Power, and both horses left the course, with Al Boum Photo crashing through the rails.
The Storyteller, piloted by Davy Russell, was left in the lead and galloped home to win for trainer Gordon Elliott.
In evidence to the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB), Paul said he was riding with his “head down between the last two fences and heard roaring on his left”, which caught his attention.
“He thought he had to bypass the fence but didn’t know which side to bypass on,” said a statement from the IHRB on the evidence given by Paul.
“He panicked and commenced his move to bypass the fence on the right side, but then realised there was nothing on the fence to indicate a bypass was needed and tried to correct his actions but it was too late.
“He accepted in hindsight that there were no bypass procedures in place. He said he made a genuine mistake and apologised for what occurred.”
Robbie, who also gave evidence, said he was “coming to win his race before the last and was carried out”.
“He described the incident as unfortunate and said he had no idea why it happened,” added the IHRB statement.
“He said he was not aware of any reason which would indicate that the fence was being bypassed.”
Paul was given a 21-day ban and ordered to forfeit his riding fee.
Robbie later tweeted that it had taken him “hours to calm down”, but he has no hard feelings and “nobody feels worse” than Paul about what happened.
In his BoyleSports Blog, he added that it was “just one of those unfortunate incidents”.
“For some reason Paul thought that we were bypassing the last fence so he made a manoeuvre to bypass,” he said.
“He just got a brain freeze. It was a case of human error. He is a top class jockey and will put it behind him and move on hopefully.
“He will take a bit of picking up this morning but he’ll get a vote of confidence from Willie Mullins and just get on with it.”
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In a statement released on Wednesday (25 April) morning, Paul said he thought he “heard a shout and that the last fence was being bypassed”.
“I wish to apologise to connections and to punters,” he said. “I’d like to leave this behind me and move on with today’s rides.”
Paul rode back-to-back winners for Willie Mullins the following day, taking the 2m 4f Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle on Pravalaguna, and the Grade One Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle on Next Destination.
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