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Expert witness claims John 'not in control' of horse at Plumpton

Former Irish champion Morgan dismisses jockey as incapable novice

Jim Best arriving at the BHA for the rehearing
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Former Irish champion jump jockey Tom Morgan on Tuesday described the rider who claims Jim Best ordered him to stop two horses as a novice who was incapable of restraining his horse and got tired.

Morgan, best known for riding Yahoo to be narrowly beaten by Desert Orchid in the 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup, said in his view Paul John was not riding 'stopping' races and his performances were evidence of his inexperience and lack of confidence.

Called as an expert witness by Best, who denies non-trier charges, Morgan was introduced as a 53-year-old ex-professional with 38 years' experience who was joint-champion in Ireland in 1985-86 and finished top jockey at the 1989 Cheltenham Festival after moving to Britain.

Morgan retired in 1991 having ridden around 500 winners, and said he now advises owners, breeders and bloodstock agents.

He guided the disciplinary panel through videos of the races at Plumpton and Towcester in December last year in which John has alleged he was ordered to ensure both Echo Brava and Missile Man did not run on their merits.

It was Morgan's view that the keen-going Echo Brava, making his hurdles debut at Plumpton, was "in control of the jockey, not the jockey in control of the horse".

He said if John had been asked to stop the horse he would have seen the rider break its stride.

"He didn't; if anything he encouraged the horse forward," he said. "He was an inexperienced jockey on an inexperienced horse getting carted."

Morgan said three occasions when John went down in the saddle indicated his legs were going and he was getting tired. He also said he was also holding on to the breast girth at one point to keep balanced.

Morgan said Missile Man never looked comfortable and from the gait of his tail was "a horse in distress".

He did not accept, under questioning from panel member William Norris QC, that the horse was under restraint. He was "held on to, not under restraint", Morgan said.

Under questioning from Louis Weston, representing the BHA, Morgan said he had given up riding due to weight and subsequently worked as a horsebox driver and salesman of gallop products.

Earlier, John completed his evidence to the hearing, which is being held for a second time after the verdict of the first inquiry – a four-year ban for Lewes trainer Best – was quashed over a perception of bias because panel chairman Matthew Lohn carried out paid work for the BHA.

John claimed he was given a "masterclass" in stopping horses by Best and his brother Tom the night he had ridden Echo Brava.

He said he was called in to review the ride, for which he was banned for 14 days for not taking all reasonable and permissible measures on the horse, who finished fifth in a novice hurdle.

John, 24, alleged he had been ordered to finish 30 lengths behind the winner, start off in a handy position until the field passed the stands for the first time and then slowly fall back, taking the horse short into his hurdles to make him lose ground.

John alleged he was taken through the race again after evening stables by the Best brothers, who pointed out what he could have done differently in order to finish further back.

Best's barrister, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, asked John if this amounted to "a masterclass in stopping horses?" to which he responded: "Yes."

Laidlaw said: "I suggest no conversation took place. In fact Mr Best was with Jack Callaghan [owner of Missile Man]. After your ride Mr Best told you how disappointed he was. He thought you rode badly."

John replied: "He was disappointed because I made it so obvious."

Laidlaw said that John, having left four yards in 18 months and having been warned at least twice that he would not get another licence if he did not stay in his job for 12 months, needed a "good or unusual reason to stay in racing" which lay behind his "false accounts".

Weston showed the panel a video of John winning on Dont Call Me Oscar at Fakenham, in which he beat Tony McCoy, riding a Best runner, into second, a race of which John said he was proud.

John told Weston that at one point he had a 25 per cent strike-rate with ten wins from 40 rides, and had also won the Scottish Borders National.

He denied quitting Best's yard because he wanted to take Christmas off.

"My mum was not very well and I wanted to spend as much time as I could with her," he said. "I didn't want to leave my job for that reason."

The case continues.

John alleged he was taken through the race again after evening stables by the Best brothers who pointed out what he could have done differently in order to finish further back

Key data

Jim Best P John
E.W. Terms