Kevin Blake

Leading racing writer Kevin Blake outlines why the stewards were wrong to allow Diego Du Charmil to keep his Ascot victory and salutes Donnacha O’Brien and Colin Keane following their battle in the Irish Jockeys’ Championship.

  • Monday 04 November
  • Blog
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The stewards made the wrong call in the Diego Du Charmil race

No doubt many are sick of discussing the Diego Du Charmil controversy at Ascot on Saturday by now, but it simply has to be commented on.

To keep this as brief as possible, did Diego Du Charmil jump the final fence within the rules? Probably. Capeland was clearly carried out through the wing and didn’t jump the fence, thus didn’t complete the course and had to be disqualified.

The acting stewards on the day got that much right, but in my opinion, they got it wrong in allowing Diego Du Charmil to keep the race.

When one watches the incident and then reads down through the interference rules on the BHA website, two lines stand out in the guiding principles:

“g) The Panel must make allowance for the momentum and ground lost by the sufferer by imagining that it had an uninterrupted run to the line.

h) The Panel must NOT make an allowance for any effect on the horse causing the interference.”

When those are considered in the context of this incident, there can surely be little doubt as to what decision should have been taken. Even before the interference took place, the result looked to be very much in the balance with Capeland staying on well and looking to have every chance of winning the race fair and square.

If we then imagine, as the BHAs own guiding principle suggests we should, that Capeland had an uninterrupted run to the line, he would surely have won the race by many lengths for the simple reason that if Capeland hadn’t been there to act as a physical barrier, Diego Du Charmil would almost certainly have run out through the wing and taken himself out of the race. Even if he hadn’t run out and decided to jump the fence at the last moment, the ground he lost in veering towards the wing would almost certainly have been enough to allow an unhindered Capeland to win the race by a clear margin.

Thus, even in Britain where the interference rules so much favour the offender rather than the victim, it doesn’t take any great amount of imagination to conclude that on the balance of probability Diego Du Charmil improved his placing by causing interference, thus warranting demotion under the BHA rules. That it was caused by accidental interference is irrelevant to the question of whether the placings should be altered and that the horse he interfered with didn’t complete the course shouldn’t have influenced the stewards’ decision.

Various aspects of this incident can be debated, but what cannot be argued is that through no fault of his own Capeland was robbed of his chance to win the race fair and square by the actions of Diego Du Charmil. Not only that, both him and his rider were put in significant danger of serious injury due to the incident.

This was clearly a very unusual case, one that is unlikely to be repeated any time soon, but the BHAs own rules could have been interpreted in a way that allowed the stewards to demote Diego Du Charmil and place him in last position. While the sufferer in this case wouldn’t have gained from the demotion of the offender, for there to be no consequences for actions such as those of Diego Du Charmil is an affront to fairness and justice. It was yet another uncomfortable example of British racing’s ill-advised obsession with the “best horse” keeping the race at the expense of everything else, including fairness and rider safety.

Irish Jockeys’ Championship a good clean fight

The Irish Flat season came to a close at Naas on Sunday and with it the various championships. The scrap for the Champion Apprentice title came right down to the wire with Oisin Orr riding the very last winner of the season to draw level with Andrew Slattery on 43 winners. Such a tally of winners would have been hard to beat in most apprentice championships and for both of them to get to such a level is a testament to them both and the seasons that they had.

However, while it may have lacked the Hollywood finish of the apprentice championship, the race for the senior title between Donnacha O’Brien and Colin Keane was no less admirable. Colin had set the pace all season and while Donnacha was expected to be strong in the closing weeks or the season, it was only in the last 10 days or so that Donnacha started to get the upper hand.

In the end, Donnacha prevailed with 111 winners against Colin’s 103, with Keane’s tally being the highest ever recorded by a runner-up in the Irish championship. Both of those tallies were commendable for their own reasons. Donnacha’s well-publicised battle with the scales restricts the number of rides he can take and indeed, Colin took just over 50% more rides than him during the course of the campaign. On the flip side, Donnacha benefits from a greater quality of ammunition provided by Aidan and Joseph O’Brien.

The differing dynamics made for a great battle, but a clean battle. Despite the stakes being so high, as Ger Lyons pointed out on his blog yesterday, neither rider had a single whip offence against their name in over 1,100 rides between them during the season. That is a great reflection on both of them as riders and they should both be very proud of themselves.

Kevin Blake
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