Thomas ruled out of festival after horror fall
THERE was bad news for jockeys on both sides of the Irish Sea yesterday, with Sam Thomas ruled out of Cheltenham after a horror fall and Flat jockey Danny Grant hit with a six-month ban for failing a routine drugs test.
Thomas was airlifted to hospital after a horrifying schooling fall at the yard of Paul Nicholls. The jockey suffered a cracked vertebra, which will ruled him out of Aintree as well as Cheltenham.
This latest setback for Thomas came after Nicholls offered him the ride on Woolcombe Folly -- whom he was schooling when the fall occurred -- in the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy next Tuesday. He was upsides Tony McCoy, who was on Chapoturgeon, when he fell at the last of the schooling fences.
Nicholls said: "It was a frightening incident, quite horrific. We thought Sam was seriously hurt and knew we shouldn't move him, so we called the air ambulance and it was with us in six minutes."
The trainer was so distressed that he cancelled plans to attend a Gold Cup lunch in London and later spoke to Thomas personally. "They let me have a quick word. He was groggy but amazingly positive."
It was Tom George, Thomas' retaining trainer, who issued categorical news late yesterday. "I haven't spoken to Sam directly, but I've spoken to his father and he will not be riding at Cheltenham next week," George said.
"He has suffered a crack to a vertebra high up in his neck, but it is not as bad as first feared and he is able to walk, talk and move his hands and feet."
Thomas' Cheltenham rides had included Tricky Trickster for Nicholls in the Gold Cup, and Tell Massini for George in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.
Little has gone right for Thomas since a glorious season ended with his Gold Cup triumph on Denman in 2008. Since losing his job as second jockey to Nicholls, he has missed a number of big days through injury and suspension.
Meanwhile, Waterford jockey Grant yesterday started the final stage of a six-month ban -- five of which have been suspended -- after it was imposed by the Turf Club for a drugs offence involving a metabolite of cocaine.
The stable jockey at Pat Flynn's yard, who suffers from severe eczema and has been on regular medication for the ailment, failed a routine drugs test at the Curragh on October 11 last.
Grant had already arrived in India for a working holiday when he was informed by the Turf Club that he had tested positive and promptly returned home to engage Naas solicitor Andrew Coonan.
Secretary of the Irish Jockeys Association, Coonan acted for Grant at the original Turf Club hearing, after which the authorities requested a further pharmacological report. Grant and Coonan learned the rider's fate when the case was resumed yesterday before the Turf Club's Referrals Committee, whose findings were that the jockey was "guilty of a doping offence".
The committee were in possession of a laboratory certificate from the relevant Spanish source in Barcelona which they deemed "sufficient proof that this offence as charged had been proved to our satisfaction". However, they accepted that the positive test was "possibly as a result of contaminated legitimate medicine purchased in India and the breach was accidental".
Thus the sanction which came into effect immediately will conclude on Sunday, April 11, when the Curragh will stage its second meeting of 2010.
Grant, who had been prescribed amoxicillin to help counteract his ongoing skin irritation while riding successful last year in Mumbai, was also told he's liable to random testing for the next six months and was ordered to pay €1,000 in costs.