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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Turf Club to review 'unduly lenient' Russell punishment

Davy Russell: cautioned for throwing punch
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Under-fire jockey Davy Russell is facing the prospect of a more severe punishment for punching a horse at Tramore this month after the Turf Club announced its appeal body is to review his penalty just four days after it was handed down.

Russell received a caution for behaviour damaging to the reputation of horseracing after he admitted to striking Kings Dolly before a race on August 18 but, in a dramatic development, the registrar of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee – which is in charge of the stewarding of jumps racing in Ireland – has intervened, using its powers to send what it deems to be "unduly lenient" penalties to appeal.

The announcement came on the same day that Ireland's leading animal welfare charity became the latest group to condemn Russell over the incident, describing his behaviour as appalling and calling for an increase in the severity of his punishment.

In a statement released late on Wednesday, the Turf Club said: "Following an internal review of the penalty imposed by the Referrals Committee on Davy Russell for a breach of Rule 272(i) as a result of an incident prior to the start of the Flynn Hotel Group Mares Handicap Hurdle at Tramore on 18 August 2017, the Registrar of the INHS Committee, using his powers under Rule 27(i), has asked the Appeals Body to review the sanction imposed on Davy Russell on the grounds that it was unduly lenient."

The statement went on to say that the hearing will be held in due course. The appeals body will have at its discretion the ability to impose any sanction on Russell that was available to the Turf Club at the original hearing.

Davy Russell and Whisper en route to victory in the Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham in December

At that hearing, Russell was found guilty of conduct prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing in Ireland by a stewards' panel over an incident that was not dealt with by the Turf Club until it was widely shared on social media.

Both Russell's behaviour, after Kings Dolly had stopped abruptly before the show hurdle at the start of the Tramore race, and the way the affair was handled by the Turf Club were criticised by the RSPCA on Tuesday.

The charity's equine consultant David Muir said the lenient punishment sent out the "wrong signal to other jockeys". "I would have expected a little more severity than that," he said.

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals took a similar line in its own statement reagrding the incident and urged the Turf Club to reconsider how it dealt with the case.

Steve Dennis on the Davy Russell incident

"We are disappointed that the jockey was sanctioned not for hitting the horse but for damaging the reputation of horseracing, under rule 272," it said.

"The same jockey was banned for 14 days last year for being rude to a steward. It is alarming that the Irish Turf Club treated that breach of its rules more seriously than hitting a horse."

It added: "We call on the Irish Turf Club to review the sanction imposed and to consider banning the jockey from racing for a period of time to send out a message to other jockeys that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated within the horseracing industry and that the welfare of horses must be absolutely paramount."

The ISPCA said it has been contacted by several people asking it to investigate Russell and potentially prosecute him on the basis of animal welfare, but the charity has no legal powers to do so.

Russell's main supporter in Britain, leading jumps owner Dai Walters, had earlier on Wednesday spoken out in defence of the beleaguered jockey.

Read Richard Forristal's verdict on the latest twist

Russell, Ireland's two-time champion jump jockey, linked up with Walters, also owner of Ffos Las racecourse, last season, agreeing to ride his string in Britain when he had no other commitments at home.

Their successes included a Dipper Novices' Chase victory and RSA Chase second with Whisper and a triumph in the Swinton Hurdle with John Constable.

Walters said: "I didn't take much notice of it. He is a top, top jockey, end of story. I don't think he's done anything that hasn't been done before. When he is available we will have the same arrangement as last year. I can't say anything bad about him at all."

Australian apprentice in hot water

Australian apprentice Brandon Stockdale was fined A$500 (£307/€332) for punching a horse in the stomach at Sandown on Wednesday. Stockdale struck the filly Maid To Measure after she had finished seventh of eight.

The jockey told Racing Victoria stewards he was frustrated with the horse after wasting down to 52kg (8st 2lb) for another ride later on the card. 

He is a top, top jockey, end of story. I don't think he's done anything that hasn't been done before
E.W. Terms
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