Kennedy latest rider to suffer in whip farce
The sorry whip saga created by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) rumbles on and on.
Two days after bans totalling 93 days were handed out -- 74 of which were amassed by two riders -- Will Kennedy's superb steer to land a gamble on Swincombe Flame in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday was undermined in the stewards' room.
Having led early, Curragh native Kennedy galvanised a renewed challenge out of his relatively inexperienced mount to get back up on the nod in a £25,000 handicap.
Backed from 9/1 into 9/2, it was a storming performance from both horse and jockey that edged the verdict by a mere nose for the wily punters who had stolen a price.
Apart from the winning purse, Swincombe Flame's owners left Kempton with a mare whose potential value as broodmare had been enhanced, and the trainer Nick Williams got his cut.
Kennedy, the man responsible for lifting Swincombe Flame over the line, was stripped of his percentage and handed a seven-day ban. He exceeded the eight-strike limit by two, the last of which caught the horse on the ribs, adding two days to the original five; once he accrued seven days, his percentage was automatically forfeited.
It used to be the case that only high-profile, excessive whip transgressions made the headlines.
Now, it's the opposite. Far from deflecting attention from use of the whip, the BHA has succeeded in attracting unnecessary coverage of minor infringements because of what are widely accepted to be unjust and disproportionate punishments.
Paddy Brennan pointed out in an interview yesterday that it's swings and roundabouts, that "there's still a winner in every race".
That is true, but it is hard to defend the rules when jockeys are being placed in such an impossible position. Barry Geraghty, beaten a head on 1/4 shot Problema Tic on Friday, later tweeted: "Punters are being deprived. I would have won the 2.20 in Huntingdon with one more smack."
Would Swincombe Flame have won on Saturday for two less? Not a chance. She fluffed the last badly, and responded perceptibly to each of the four reminders that she received from there. She wasn't abused in any sensible interpretation of the word, but the new rules would have demanded that her jockey curb his will to win.
"You work your arse off and lose two and a half grand," Kennedy mused. "It's my first ban under the new rules and only my third in nine years. I can't say it's worth it, but what do I do? Do I tell the owners I got beat a nostril for not using the whip?"
That's not a predicament any rider should find themselves in during the heat of battle. If the BHA is intent on limiting use of the whip, this is a dilemma that needs to be taken out of the jockeys' hands entirely, and the only way to do that is to disqualify any horse that improves its finishing position as a result of its rider's whip offences.
That way, everyone -- trainer, jockey and owner -- is in the same boat.
O'Brien's Dubai target
for So You Think
Aidan O'Brien's wife Anne-Marie revealed on Twitter yesterday that So You Think will be entered for the Dubai World Cup on March 31.
The Australian import brought his Group One haul to eight in the Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in September, and has been installed a general 7/2 favourite to deliver his Ballydoyle handler a first victory in the Meydan feature, which is run over his optimum trip of 10 furlongs.
of the weekend
Philip Rothwell's persistence was rewarded when Paco Jack scored at Punchestown on Saturday. The eight-year-old's most recent win came when he supplied Joe Crowley with his final winner at Galway in August 2009, yet he had failed to even finish in the first three in 16 subsequent outings.
Rothwell revealed that since joining his Tinahely yard, Paco Jack had suffered holes in both hind suspensory ligaments, had two wind operations and bled frequently. It's a wonder the horse is racing at all.
Ride of the weekend
NIALL Madden did well to get Oscar Dan Dan back into contention in the beginners' chase at Navan yesterday. Having rooted the third-last, Tony Martin's 10-year-old looked spent, and was still only fifth jumping the final fence. However, Madden's urgings paid off, as his mount responded gamely to burst clear up the run-in.
18 The impressive strike-rate of Sheikh Mohammad's racing manager John Ferguson, who is moonlighting as a jumps trainer in England this season, continues. At Warwick on Saturday, Ferguson recorded his 18th winner from 43 runners when Cotton Mill landed the Grade Two novice hurdle.
Cyclone heading back
Following Hidden Cyclone's comprehensive success on its chasing debut at the Foxrock venue, John 'Shark' Hanlon has revealed that his exciting Stowaway seven-year-old will return to Leopardstown for the Grade Two Boylesports.com Novice Chase on January 28. Should everything go to plan then, Hanlon intends to again step Hidden Cyclone up in grade for the Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase two weeks later.
"Faller at the 4th in Ptown today is great advert for island hurdles, no one brought down, could have been a right pile up."
-- Ruby Walsh, having suffered interference on eventual runner-up Allure Of Illusion when the horse in front of him crashed out at Punchestown on Saturday, advocates the use of 'island' hurdles. It is an issue that seems to polarise opinion, with Walsh's chief collaborator Willie Mullins recently suggesting that the increasing use of island hurdles by tracks is "regressive" because it presents a chance for horses and jockeys to take the wrong course.