EIGHT conditional jockeys -- two of them Irish -- were hit with big bans at Huntingdon yesterday after the opening handicap hurdle descended into farce when all but two jockeys took the wrong course before reaching the first hurdle.
The majority of the field headed incorrectly to the right of a short strip of fencing in the early stages of the conditional jockeys' handicap hurdle and nearly all the offenders continued to the finish.
Star young rider Sam Twiston-Davies was one of those involved, along with Meath native Peterjon Carberry, Wexford's Matt O'Connor, Harry Challoner, Henry Brooke, Gemma Gracey-Davison, Matt Crawley and Nathan Sweeney. They were all banned for 12 days for taking the wrong course.
All bar Sweeney were handed an additional three days for failing to pull up having knowingly taken the wrong course.
Rawaaj passed the post first but the race was awarded to the 5/2 favourite Dancing Daffodil and jockey Chris Ward, who would have been placed fifth otherwise.
Winning trainer Robin Dickin said: "You are supposed to keep left, but most of them have gone right down the chase course. Luckily my jockey walked the course with me last week and went again on his own today."
Tom Molloy also took the correct route to claim second on Giollacca, and while Sovereign Spirit carried Richard Killoran the wrong way despite the jockey's efforts, Killoran retraced their steps to be third.
Ward and Dickin later managed another winner in the more conventional fashion through Roxane Bruere, which captured the mares' novices' handicap hurdle.
However, Barry Geraghty was the star jockey on the day as he combined with Nicky Henderson to land a treble.
Last seen in action when winning easily over hurdles at Newbury in March 2009, Mr Gardner subjugated his opponents in the novices' chase with an array of impressive leaps as he crushed them by 32 lengths.
Spirit Son did not take the novices' hurdle by such a big margin, but the 8/13 favourite was always in control under Geraghty.
Henderson's Hit The Headlines, carrying the same white and black colours of Michael Buckley, completed the Geraghty hat-trick in the bumper.