BHA criticised after Jacob escapes with caution for Cheltenham altercation
Solicitor Rory Mac Neice branded the BHA's referral to an independent disciplinary panel of a post-race incident at Cheltenham last month involving his client Daryl Jacob "a total waste of time" after the jockey was complimented as much as cautioned by chairman James O'Mahony.
Jacob, partnering the unplaced Creep Desbois, was seen on video having strong words with amateur Noel George, riding the third-placed Kk Lexion.
Jacob momentarily grabbed him by his silks and pulled him towards him as the pair returned down the walkway after a handicap hurdle in which Aidan Coleman was unseated three out and looked very lucky to escape serious injury.
A 19-second loop of film, in which the pair engaged for just six seconds and no words could be discerned, was shown repeatedly. Just as relevant, and also shown repeatedly at Mac Neice's insistence, was an incident coming down the hill on an unrailed section of the track.
It showed George coming from behind Jacob up his inner but failing to pass him safely before the rail resumed approaching the hurdle. Rather than rein back or steer to the outside of the rail George cut across Jacob, taking his ground, causing his mount to become unbalanced, and arguably contributing to the incident just ahead of them in which Coleman was unseated and then trampled on by George's mount.
Grand National winner Jacob insisted there was no foul language and his concern on the walkway was simply to educate George about how dangerous his riding had been. He said he had grabbed hold of George's silks merely because he had "tunnel vision" and was not listening.
The Cheltenham stewards cautioned George about his riding and also spoke to Jacob about what they had seen on the walkway without administering a formal caution.
The following day George rang Jacob to apologise, having viewed the the race again with his jockey coach Dave Crosse. Jacob said George had also sought advice from him, just as Jacob himself did in his younger days from the likes of Sir Anthony McCoy, Richard Johnson and Mick Fitzgerald.
That, was enough, argued Mac Neice, who added that "a caution now [rather than a suspension] would accurately reflect the very considerable mitigation". The panel agreed.
O'Mahony concluded: "We set no further penalty on the principle that enough is enough and we accept that what went on in those six seconds was all related to Mr Jacob's concern for the safety of horses and riders."
Heat of the moment
He added that if it was done in an emotional manner it was understandable in the heat of that moment, as Jacob had just seen a rerun on the adjacent big screen of the incident and had no knowledge yet of his good friend Coleman's wellbeing.
O'Mahony went on to encourage Jacob to "continue to educate younger and less experienced riders in an appropriate way" while taking care not to raise a hand in an aggressive manner.
Outside the inquiry Mac Neice said: "Our position is that this was dealt with properly on the day by a very experienced stipe in Simon Cowley, a former rider. It was commendable and proportionate regulation, and by giving a caution today we feel the panel today have reached a similar conclusion.
"It was important that the panel found that you have to look at these matters in context, because the BHA's position was that you wouldn't."
He added: "It was a total waste of time, I'm afraid. A confident regulator can regulate with a light touch when the occasion merits it, and that, to their credit, is what the stipes did at Cheltenham. I hope the BHA's decision to refer that decision doesn't dilute stipes' confidence in regulating in that manner."
Jacob, who missed a day's riding at either Ludlow or Taunton but is now looking forward to three days at Cheltenham, said: "I've had a fair hearing, but the stipes did a good job on the day. Hopefully everyone can move on now and learn from what happened.
"I'm glad today is over and that we can move on now."