Amateur rider Declan Lavery has appealed against the 10-day suspension he incurred at the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday.
Lavery was one of three jockeys in hot water with the stewards at Prestbury Park after just four of the 18 runners completed the concluding National Hunt Chase, a race confined to amateur riders that was run over four miles on rain-softened ground.
The three jockeys in question were suspended for a collective 37 days, with the stewards ruling Noel McParlan and Lavery – who finished third aboard the Philip Hobbs-trained Jerrysback – had “continued in the race when it appeared to be contrary to the horses’s welfare”.
A subsequent statement from a British Horseracing Authority spokesman said the governing body was “extremely disappointed by the conduct of a small number of riders”, adding “amateur participation in its current form at future Festivals will be under material threat should further incidents occur”.
Speaking on Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday programme, the BHA’s chief executive Nick Rust confirmed Lavery’s appeal, saying: “We’re in the middle of an appeal and I don’t want to prejudice that.”
He did, however, add: “I defy anyone to say that race was a good example of what our sport’s about, that the race did anything to help us in the future management of our sport or, indeed, that all the rides in that race were within our rules.
“I’ll leave it at that for now.”
Hobbs later joined Rust on the show and defended Lavery’s decision to continue riding.
He said: “He (Jerrysback) was tired, there’s no doubt about that. The second-last he jumped very carefully, because he was tired, and the last he jumped better as he was just getting going again.
“I don’t think, at any stage, Declan Lavery was pushing the horse more than was reasonable – he didn’t even use the stick.
“After the race the horse was absolutely fine. No vet actually was asked to see him after the race, which I think is relevant, as surely if the horse was completely exhausted the vet should have seen him before Declan Lavery went into the stewards’ room.
“The next day at home the horse was grand. Yes, he was tired, but I really don’t think he was that exhausted that he should have been pulled up.”
The BHA’s handling of the aftermath of the race has met with criticism from many within the sport, among them Sir Anthony McCoy, who spoke out strongly the following day, telling ITV Racing he was “embarrassed for the BHA”.