Soumillon reeling after five-day ban
Christophe Soumillon said yesterday that he will find "a good lawyer" and challenge the British Horseracing Authority over its strict new rules on the use of the whip, after he was fined about £52,000 -- his percentage of the winning prize money -- for hitting Cirrus Des Aigles six times in the final furlong of the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot.
Soumillon, widely acknowledged to be one of the finest jockeys on the international stage, produced what appeared to be a typically polished performance to win the £1.3m race, the richest ever run in Britain, in front of nearly 27,000 on the inaugural Champions Day at Ascot.
The stewards, however, disagreed, and handed the jockey a five-day riding ban and left Soumillon both angry and bemused that he would not receive his dues from the ride on the Corine Barande-Barbe-trained gelding, who beat So You Think, the 7/4 favourite, by three-quarters of a length.
"They have changed the rules five days before the race," Soumillon said. "Why did they do that? It is amazing, I have never seen anything like it in my life. I tried to count but I couldn't see the [furlong marker], you can't do everything. You can't look for the marker, look for other horses, count the times you use the whip and ride a finish.
"I was just beside So You Think, one of the tallest horses plus the jockey, and I couldn't see the marker. I tried to count. I used the whip six times and I thought I was okay.
"For such a small thing, I get a big ban. I think the jockeys should get together as it's impossible to work this way. I can't accept it. The rules should be the same internationally."
The Belgian added: "Never can a fine like this have been handed out in sport. I cannot understand why they change it one week before Champions Day. The rules should be the same everywhere in the world."
Soumillon's fine was a significant reverse for racing on an otherwise outstanding afternoon, which began when Fame And Glory returned to his winning Gold Cup form in the Long Distance Cup.
Deacon Blues, who was one of the favourites for the Group One Sprint Cup in September until he was ruled out by a viral infection, showed that he would have been a serious opponent for Dream Ahead with an easy success in the Group Two British Champions Sprint Stakes.
Johnny Murtagh had no trouble settling Deacon Blues just behind the early speed, and was still going easily when he pushed James Fanshawe's gelding into the lead over a furlong out. From there it was a race for second place, a contest in which Wizz Kid edged out Libranno, and Deacon Blues, this year's Wokingham Handicap winner, already looks a leading contender for the Golden Jubilee Stakes over the same course and distance at the Royal meeting next June.
Dancing Rain was an impressive winner of the Fillies and Mares Stakes to give Murtagh a quickfire double.
Sunday Indo Sport