Maguire cleared to get in Festival mood
JASON MAGUIRE is free to maintain his partnership with the unbeaten Peddlers Cross in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, having yesterday persuaded the appeals panel of the British Horseracing Authority to reduce by one priceless day the whip ban he picked up at Doncaster last week.
The County Meath native received a seven-day suspension from the Doncaster stewards in controversial circumstances last Wednesday. Riding Cool Mission for his boss and Peddlers Cross' trainer Donald McCain, Maguire was involved in a prolonged battle up the straight with Richard Johnson on Beshabar, which eventually won the race.
Both riders were found guilty of excessive use of the whip, but Maguire was given a two-day ban for that transgression while Johnson received just one.
In addition, Maguire was also handed a mandatory five-day exclusion for marking Cool Mission, despite the fact that the horse had never previously marked and that he had not been found guilty of excessive force. His ban was due to conclude on March 15, the opening day of the Festival.
At yesterday's hearing at the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) headquarters in London, Maguire managed to get the second day of the two-day suspension overturned. As a result he is now free to ride Peddlers Cross, which is unbeaten in seven racecourse starts, on Tuesday week.
Consensus among professionals within the industry following the initial ban was that Maguire had been harshly treated, so yesterday's outcome was a welcome reprieve and the rider's availability will be a bonus for supporters of Peddlers Cross.
The 30-year-old, who landed a novice hurdle on the horse at last year's Festival, is the only jockey to have ridden the former Liscarroll point-to-point winner on the track.
"I'm absolutely delighted," Maguire said after yesterday's hearing. "I wasn't confident coming down here and I didn't know what to expect, but it's brilliant to get back in the Champion Hurdle. It has been hanging over me for the last few days, but I've had a lot of support from fellow jockeys and from people at the races. It's the right result for the Champion Hurdle."
Meanwhile, Ruby Walsh gets the ideal chance for a comeback winner when he partners Don't Turn Bach for Paul Nicholls in the Elle Security Novices' Handicap Hurdle at Newbury today. Walsh had been so aghast at Maguire's treatment that he delayed his comeback by one day to reduce the possibility of picking up an untimely ban.
His return comprises just one mount, but Nicholls certainly has been keeping him busy this week, with Walsh schooling a series of his leading Festival candidates, and also partnering Kauto Star in a racecourse gallop.
The champion trainer is desperate to give Walsh a winner on his first day back in the saddle since breaking a leg at Down Royal in November, just over an hour after winning the JNwine.com Champion Chase on Kauto Star, and Don't Turn Bach was mentioned favourably in dispatches at the start of the week.
Formerly a smart bumper horse, this is his first time in a handicap and he could easily be thrown in.
Howard Johnson's Glencree had been off the track for a long time before winning at Catterick in January and he is open to lots of improvement in Doncaster's Green Tick For Better Odds At coral.co.uk Novices' Chase.