McCoy slams BHA's decision to ban amateur jockey Lavery
Tony McCoy, the 20-times champion jockey, launched a blistering attack on regulators as a fresh equine safety row at Cheltenham threatens the future of one of the biggest amateur-only chases in racing.
McCoy said the decision to penalise Declan Lavery (right) - one of three jockeys suspended after the National Hunt Chase on Tuesday - was the worst he had seen in 25 years at the Festival.
The final race on Tuesday was also the scene of the first equine death of this year's Festival and came after a British Horseracing Authority review warned the chase was already "the highest risk of incident".
As leading figures in the sport privately expressed fears the four-miler could be scrapped in future years, McCoy called the decision to punish Lavery, who finished third on Jerrysback, a "disgrace".
Speaking on ITV Racing, McCoy saved particular scorn for Brant Dunshea, the BHA chief regulatory officer. He said: "I've been coming to Cheltenham for 25 years. Brant Dunshea from the BHA is Australian.
"I don't know what experience he has of jump racing. They don't have jump racing in Australia and they are letting people like that make decisions. It's wrong. I have never seen as bad a decision in 25 years in racing."
Lavery was suspended for 10 days for continuing in the race when, according to officials, it appeared to be contrary to the horse's welfare after "tired jumping errors at the final two fences".
It is understood the stewards who made the three suspension decisions on Tuesday were British and a statement from the BHA said the governing body was "extremely disappointed by the conduct of a small number of riders in the National Hunt Chase".
However, McCoy said: "I'm embarrassed for the BHA. Talk about bringing racing into disrepute. I never thought at any stage he was doing the wrong thing. The horse is perfectly fine this morning. The horse's welfare was not an issue."
The BHA has been under pressure to improve animal welfare in the run-up to jump racing's highest-profile meeting of the year and prior to Tuesday's amateur race, the jockeys were reminded of their responsibilities in relation to pulling up tired horses. The Amateur Jockeys Association of Great Britain issued updated guidelines just last week, imploring members to take note of recommendations in the BHA's Cheltenham Festival Review.
Lavery was penalised late on Tuesday, along with Robert James, suspended for 12 days for his ride on Just Your Type, which fell at the final fence. Noel McParlan, the rider of Mulcahys Hill - a faller at the penultimate obstacle - was given an eight-day suspension. Stewards also wanted to hold an inquiry into the ride of Damian Skehan on Clondaw Cian, the fourth of four finishers, but he had left the course and the hearing was adjourned to a later date.
A BHA statement in response to McCoy's comments said: "It is the responsibility of jockeys to pull up tired horses. This is fundamental and the rules are clear that priority must be given to the horse if it would be contrary to the horse's welfare to continue riding out.
"This is why the independent stewarding panel, which comprises two former jump jockeys, imposed the penalties on the riders. All riders were briefed and reminded of their responsibilities before racing, and this included their responsibilities when it comes to pulling up tired horses. They were given a further briefing just before the race."