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'It’s not good enough' - Mulholland blasts officials over void-race fiasco

Neil Mulholland: says procedures were put in place too late
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Trainer Neil Mulholland, whose horse finished first past the post in Sandown's voided London National on Saturday, has blasted the raceday officials for their handling of the incident.

Mulholland said on Sunday that the race should have been stopped sooner and that the yellow flag, which indicates a race has been voided, was not waved like it should have been.

The trainer saddled Doing Fine to pass the post in front in the 3m5f handicap chase before the race was voided on safety grounds due to Houblon Des Obeaux, who suffered what was later reported by trainer Venetia Williams to be a fatal heart attack, being attended by racecourse veterinary staff on the bend approaching the home straight after the Pond fence.

Seven jockeys, who continued to race despite the stop-race yellow flag being waved just before the third-last fence, were handed ten-day suspensions following a lengthy stewards' inquiry.

Seven jockeys banned for ten days amid chaotic scenes in finale at Sandown

Jamie Moore, Daryl Jacob, Adam Wedge, Stan Sheppard, Harry Skelton, Jamie Davies and Philip Donovan are set to miss the valuable Christmas schedule.

The jockeys are appealing against the bans which are due to start on December 21. 

Mulholland said: “In the cold light of day it was very disappointing for myself, the jockey Philip Donovan and the horse’s owners to lose a decent prize like that in the stewards’ room following an inquiry that lasted the best part of 40 minutes.

“I was in the stewards’ room at the inquiry and the clerk of the course Andrew Cooper told the stewards the quick decision to void the race was taken because the stricken horse was still down on the bend after the third-last fence.

“Now, if it was a quick decision why did it take the race to continue for another mile and five furlongs or so before it was stopped by a man standing approaching an S-shaped bend holding a yellow flag? For the good of racing and the welfare of the injured horse the race should have been voided as soon as that decision was taken.

"The yellow flag is the yellow flag, I agree, but the man was holding it on the side, as is plainly shown on the front of the Racing Post, and not waving it. The jockeys said they heard some whistles but it was not easy to see the flag.

“The race was not stopped at the right time and it should have been stopped sooner – it’s just not good enough in this day and age as this is a multi-million pound sport. Surely everyone in the sport deserves something more than a man with just a flag standing on an S-shaped bend?”

Defending the track's handling of the incident, Cooper said on Sunday: "When I talk about a quick decision it was quick in that there was a potential problem.

"A horse was down and you do not know the immediate cause or whether that horse is going to get up. When we made the final decision to go ahead with voiding the race, the horses were in the early part of the back straight.

"Neil Mulholland is entitled to his opinion but we at Sandown are happy that the man with the yellow flag was in the right place and felt confident that he would be seen by the jockeys and they would pull up. We followed the procedure that has been agreed with the BHA inspectorate."

He added: "I have been in the role of clerk of the course for 30 years and this is the first time anything like this has happened."

A BHA spokesman said on Sunday they were satisfied rules had been applied correctly. He said: “Once the clerk of the course made the decision to deploy the stop-race flag the race will always be declared void.

“The stewards on the day determined that, in their view, the stop-race procedures were deployed adequately and the riders had the opportunity to see the flag and hear the whistle, and indeed two riders did pull up. Therefore the seven jockeys who continued racing were in breach of the rules. They have the ability to appeal that decision if they wish, in front of an independent panel."

Mulholland expressed his sympathies to those involved with Houblon Des Obeaux.

He said: “My condolences to all the connections of the horse as he has been a fantastic servant over the seasons. I know just how much these old horses mean to everyone who has been close to them for such a long time.”

Paul Struthers, Professional Jockeys Association chief executive, said: “First and foremost our thoughts go out to Venetia, her team and the owners and we shouldn’t let what happened subsequently make us lose sight of that. 

“We will be lodging an appeal on behalf of all the riders who were suspended and it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment further until after that appeal has concluded.”

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If it was a quick decision why did it take the race to continue for another mile and five furlongs or so before it was stopped?
E.W. Terms