Why the ban on Sam Waley-Cohen is wrong

By David Williams on |

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Long Run
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Last week, I wrote with my usual levels of pent-up distress about the under-reporting of the casualties we had suffered at the Cheltenham Festival.

Imagine my dismay, therefore, when I saw last weekend that top amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen had been slapped with a seven-day ban for easing down on the horse with which he is most associated, Long Run, in the horse’s final race before retirement.

For those with dodgy memories, Long Run was the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in 2011, ridden by Waley-Cohen to defeat the likes of Imperial Commander, Denman and Kauto Star in what is, to my mind, the greatest Gold Cup of recent times.

Long Run had appeared to lose his mojo of late in recent years and when he failed to sparkle at Carlisle last Sunday, connections retired him on the spot as he crossed the line. It was the crossing of the line, of course, that has triggered the discussion.

Waley-Cohen knew his horse was past it, he knew he couldn’t win, he almost certainly knew that Long Run’s days as a racehorse were over and he eased the horse up. He was slapped with a ban by stewards who punished him for not riding to secure the best possible finish in the race.

To the letter of the law, they were probably right to do so. Waley-Cohen broke the rules. But I begin to despair (regular readers will know that I have been despairing for one reason or another – mainly my punting – since day one) when common sense is tossed aside at the expense of letter-of-the-law enforcement.

I simply won’t accept that Waley-Cohen’s actions were wrong, and I will always point to the need to employ common sense above all else when applying rules. Here was the horse of a lifetime, a family jewel for the Waley-Cohens, running barely a week after a high-profile week of seven equine casualties.

I am not even sure if any punters lost money on each-way bets and frankly – for a gambler – I don’t really care. The horse was handled sensitively, lovingly and in the spirit of the sport we love.

Whaley-Cohen could have been reprimanded, he could have conducted an open discussion with the stewards in front of the media and we could all have made our own minds up. It strikes me that the authorities failed to apply any sense of sensitivity or spirit in their application of their rules.

I will remember Long Run as a chasing great who can now enjoy a happy retirement with his owners and I won’t let the nonsense of last weekend overshadow a brilliant racing combination.

Great Friday

Racing on Good Friday has been a thorny subject for the past couple of years since the inception of the All-Weather Championships final on Good Friday.

I am unashamedly a fan and remain so after enjoying a terrific day of sport in the sunshine at Lingfield last Friday. They posted a record modern day attendance in turnstile gate receipts and it transformed a sometimes barren land into a wonderful place for families to flock and enjoy the racing.

The racing itself was pretty serious stuff with some terrific performances, but just as impressive was the buzz in the betting ring, the restaurants and out on the lawns as regulars and irregulars mingled happily to celebrate a day out.

The detrimental impact on the Open Days – most especially in Lambourn – appear to have been negligible and I still struggle to see how racing folk cannot welcome this initiative.

If even a fraction of the young kids who were enjoying their ice creams in unseasonably warm Good Friday weather stick with our sport for the next few years we can take heart. It was a great Friday for the soul.

Classy Godolphin

A piece of news that nearly escaped my attention this week was Godolphin’s plans to re-establish the iconic Warren Place yard to former glories. That will take some doing.

Most recently, of course, the beautiful yard atop Warren Hill was home to the late, great Sir Henry Cecil from where the maestro sent out the likes of Frankel to outstanding success. Since his wife, Lady Cecil, hang up her training permit, the yard has been empty. Now Goldolphin have bought the ‘real estate’ and excitement is understandably rife as to which trainer is set to move in.

We’ll follow it with interest but the class with which the Godolphin team have ensured that Lady Cecil can remain resident of what I consider to be the most beautiful house in Newmarket is worthy of high praise. This was her home and homes are where the heart is, regardless of the landlord’s intentions.

Make a different wish

Mshawish ran like the double figure price he was in last weekend’s Dubai World Cup. In the end, the great California Chrome was way too good for my selection and his rivals, and perhaps I’ll wait at least another year before I dip my toe into Meydan tipping.

Closer to home this weekend we have the Lincoln, which once upon a time heralded the start of the Flat season proper before we all got confused by the tinkering of the marketing teams.

Even so, I’m going to give Jeremy Noseda’s Keystoke an each-way chance in what looks a typically impossible renewal. He has winning form and the yard deserve a bit of luck this term.

Jim Crowley takes the ride and is one of the best around at the moment, so Keystroke can suffer the indignity of having my money with him this weekend.

Top image: Long Run by Kate via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

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