National jockeys face enquiry
A stewards' enquiry ordered into the Grand National start ended in chaotic scenes when jockeys refused to take part.
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A stewards' enquiry ordered into the Crabbie's Grand National start and an incident in which assistant starter Simon McNeill was knocked down by a horse has ended in chaotic scenes when jockeys refused to take part in the hearing.
An initial enquiry took place after the National, during the following conditional jockeys' race, which was attended by most of the 39 riders who took part in the contest, won by 25/1 chance Pineau De Re.
At that hearing, Tony McCoy acted as a spokesperson for the jockeys, but when the enquiry was reconvened following the final race the jockeys refused to take part.
As a consequence, the entire incident has now been referred for a full hearing at British Horseracing Authority headquarters at High Holborn in London, at which the 39 riders may now face further punishment for refusing to participate in the enquiry.
Professional Jockeys Association chief executive Paul Struthers, speaking at the track some three hours after the end of the race, said that jockeys were unhappy over "certain aspects of the conduct of the enquiry".
"I wasn't invited to be present for the initial hearing, but I know that certain conversations took place between jockeys and stipes took place afterwards, and the jockeys - to a man - decided that they would not take part when the hearing was due to re-commence," he said.
"Only one of them would have needed to be present, but they all decided that they would not take part. Timewise, a number of the Irish jockeys were under pressure to catch ferries and flights, but that wasn't the reason why they refused to go back in. They all agreed that they just weren't happy about the way in which matters were being conducted."
Asked if the jockeys felt responsibility for taking part in an event that now threatens to overshadow the victory of Pineau De Re, Struthers responded: "I think it would be unfair to lay the blame for that at the door of the jockeys. Yes, it is a shame that it has come at the end of three great days of racing, but they felt very strongly that matters were not being conducted correctly."
Struthers said that he had already been in contact with his counterpart at the Irish Jockeys' Association, Andrew Coonan "and other solicitors".
"What we need to do now is establish a timeline as to exactly what happened and we will take it from there," he said. "Copies of the DVD of footage of the incidents will be distributed to everyone and a hearing will be called by the BHA. I've spoken to Simon and he's fine."
Ironically, the only jockey not facing punishment from the BHA is Brendan Powell, whose mount Battle Group caused the problems at the start by refusing to line up with the others.
BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey commented: "While we regret that the jockeys refused to return to the stewards' room to allow the enquiry to be concluded, the referring of the matter to the Disciplinary Panel will mean a re-hearing and hopefully an opportunity to take this matter forward in a more constructive manner.
“Not all of the jockeys will be required to attend. They will be able to nominate representatives to attend the hearing.
“It is undoubtedly a challenge to hold such an enquiry with such a number of riders in the aftermath of the Grand National.”