Cromwell pledges to back Fox after National winning rider's cocaine ban
Trainer Gavin Cromwell has pledged to help Ger Fox rebuild his riding career after the Irish Grand National-winning jockey was hit with a ban that rules him out for at least the remainder of the season after he tested positive for cocaine.
Along with amateur riders Roger Quinlan and Danny Benson, Fox, who recorded a famous victory in last year's Irish Grand National on Mouse Morris's Gigginstown Stud-owned Rogue Angel, returned the positive test for the banned substance at Galway on October 10.
At a Turf Club referrals hearing in Dublin's Croke Park Hotel on Thursday night, the 28-year-old was suspended for two years, but that can be reviewed in five and a half months as long as he complies with the Turf Club's random testing regime and continues to have the support of his employer.
As well as riding a lot of his horses, Fox also doubles up as assistant trainer to Cromwell, who gave evidence on his behalf at the hearing.
"I don't condone what he has done, but hopefully he will learn from it," Cromwell said. "I was very surprised – unbelievably surprised – in the first instance, so I am taking it was a one-off.
"Ger is a good fella and a good worker, and is a great help to me here in the yard, so hopefully he is going to learn from this. He is eager to knuckle down and get back."
Benson – whose mother Carol supported him at his hearing – and Quinlan also received two-year bans with long portions suspended.
Benson, 20, a 5lb claimer who enjoyed a fine start to the season that brought five winners, including four for his former boss Noel Meade, will have his case reviewed in six months once he engages positively with the Turf Club programme.
He has not ridden since November 4.
William Slattery, brother of trainer Andy, spoke on Quinlan's behalf at his hearing. Quinlan, a 3lb claimer, is one of the most respected and experienced riders on the point-to-point circuit. He partnered Faugheen to victory for the Slatterys on his debut at Ballysteen in April 2012 and has ridden 176 winners in points, plus 39 on the track.
In his case, mitigating personal circumstances were taken into account by the referrals committee, prompting the panel to suspend 21 months of the ban provided he complies with the terms and conditions. As such, he could be back in the saddle in March.
In light of the increasing number of riders testing positive for cocaine, Cromwell welcomed the committee's suggestion that deterrents be doubled to four years. He also commended the Turf Club's handling of Fox's case.
"I think that is a good call by the Turf Club, I would agree with that," he said of an increased ban. "They have been very good in dealing with this and are giving these lads a chance going forward. Obviously they are going to keep a close eye on them, but hopefully Ger can rebuild his career."
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