Racing at Sandown on Sunday has been abandoned as a result of a jockeys’ boycott.
The vast majority of jockeys refused to ride in protest at the Jockey Club’s recent ban on their use of mobile phones on the racecourse.
Representatives of the jockeys met Jockey Club officials twice during the week. The Jockey Club compromised by allowing jockeys to use their phones in supervised “phone zones”, but insisted they kept their phones switched off. This was deemed unacceptable.
A total of 17 jockeys, mostly unknown apprentices, were yesterday declared to ride at Sandown, but the racecourse was not keen to stage a meeting in such unsatisfactory circumstances.
The Jockey Club spent all afternoon trying to persuade Sandown to go ahead “for the the good of the sport”.
A Jockey Club spokesman said last night: “No-one benefits from the meeting being called off and it does not improve the jockeys’ bargaining position.”
The Jockey Club wrote to all jockeys explaining the state of play in this dispute yesterday.
Senior jockey Richard Hughes said last night: “The Jockey Club are digging their own grave by not compromising. It’s terrible they’re bringing racing into disrepute and we’re the ones that are losing out by not riding.”
It was in a court case last year that jump jockey Graham Bradley admitted that information had been passed to gamblers by mobile phone from the weighing room. As a result the Jockey Club conducted two in-depth reviews examining threats posed to the integrity of racing.
The authorities were also stung by criticism in two television programmes, which alleged that racing was corrupt and that the Jockey Club was not taking the necessary action.
Jockeys were banned, from 1 September, from using mobile phones on the racecourse from half an hour before racing until after the last race.
Multiple champion jump jockey Tony McCoy says: “This is about trust and I would prefer that if they didn’t trust me then they wouldn’t give me a license to ride.”
He adds: “We just wanted a period of time that we could prove to them that we could make it work with the new rules and the phone zone.”