Davy Russell hit with four-day ban for horse 'punch' in Tramore
An appeals body review of the punishment handed out to Davy Russell for punching Kings Dolly on the neck at Tramore last month has resulted in a four-day suspension for the former champion jockey.
Following an investigation, Russell was originally given a caution, with no further action to be taken, from the referrals committee after appearing to strike his mount before a race on August 18.
However, after an internal review the Turf Club said the registrar of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee had asked the appeals body to look at the findings of the referrals committee "on the grounds that it was unduly lenient".
Russell, twice champion in Ireland and winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2014 on Lord Windermere, had argued he wanted the horse to concentrate and that it was inappropriate to use the whip under the circumstances.
But the rider's actions were heavily criticised in many quarters and television footage created a stir on social media.
In giving out the new punishment Joseph Finnegan, chairman of the appeals body and a retired Supreme Court judge was reported by The Irish Field as saying: "For this present case, a five-day suspension seems an appropriate penalty.
"However, we consider Mr Russell's previous record, which is a good one with regard to the welfare of animals, and we also take into account the delay in finalising the case which has caused a great deal of stress to Mr Russell and his family.
"Nonetheless we do not wish to underplay, understate or mitigate the offence - which is a serious one.
"However, taking into account the offender, we will reduce the suspension by one day and so substitute the penalty imposed to Mr Russell by the referrals committee from a caution to four days."
The suspension will not begin until September 19, allowing Russell to ride at the Listowel Festival as he had made commitments to ride horses believing he would be free to do so, which was taken into account.
David Muir, equine consultant for the RSPCA, hopes lessons will be learned from the affair and the timescales involved in a reaching a final verdict.
He said: "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. 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.
"Punching horses in the head is obviously not 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.
"Hounding a jockey is not right, which is what has happened here, so the Turf Club, and BHA, need to learn from this."