Longsdon: NH Chase fallout exposes widening gulf between trainers and BHA
Trainer Charlie Longsdon believes the fallout from the controversial bans handed out to three jockeys after last Tuesday's National Hunt Chase has exposed a schism between the BHA and trainers.
One of the suspended trio, Robert James, was aboard the Longsdon-trained Just Your Type in the amateur riders' contest run over nearly four miles on soft ground and received a 12-day ban for "continuing in the race when it appeared to be contrary to the horse’s welfare", according to the stewards' report.
Just Your Type fell at the last, while James received an additional seven-day ban for use of the whip.
"I thought Robert gave the horse a fantastic ride," Longsdon said on Monday. "He was still in front halfway down the hill. He jumped the second-last in fourth behind Jerrysback, then went back past him between the last two.
"There was £12,500 up for grabs for coming third in the race, and he was a 50-1 shot, so there was each-way money on the line too. What is happening is putting jockeys in an impossible position."
Longsdon, who reported Just My Type none the worse for his fall, believes – along with fellow trainers Henry Daly, Nicky Henderson and Ted Walsh, who have been among those to express their views – that the BHA's handling of welfare matters leaves something to be desired.
"I think the biggest issue is that the BHA haven't consulted trainers," said Longsdon. "They seem to be making all these rules up without consulting the people who know their horses – the trainers.
"The BHA are quite right they have to please the public and think of horses first, but they're almost saying that trainers aren't aware of welfare issues. But there's no-one more aware of the issues than trainers; it's what we do, we love our horses."
Sir Anthony McCoy was another to express his views over the bans handed out at Cheltenham, along with the BHA's policies on welfare. He also questioned chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea's ability to make informed decisions when it came to jump racing given in Australia, his country of birth, the sport is a second-class citizen.
The BHA has turned to Australia to fill several senior positions in recent years and current director of equine welfare David Sykes is also Australian.
Longsdon said: "I think over the last few months there have been several instances that advertise the fact the BHA and trainers aren't on the same wavelength. Whether it's right or wrong, we're blaming those in charge at the BHA, and the fact some of them are Australian means they're not experienced when it comes to jump racing.
"They don't understand jump racing in the same way that people over here do. I understand they're trying to address welfare issues but they're going about it the wrong way."
Those concerns were echoed by Max McNeill, part-owner of Mulcahys Hill, another faller in the National Hunt Chase and whose jockey Noel McParlan received an eight-day ban.
"People need to understand the welfare of a horse is always paramount," said McNeill. "I find it very strange that we can't have people running jump racing, in particular, that are from this country. Have we not got anybody in Britain good enough?"
He added: "I talk to a lot of trainers and many hold that view. I can't understand why we don't have people in senior positions who really understand the fabric of what jump racing means here."
On the Luck On Sunday programme, BHA chief executive Nick Rust described such views as a "cheap shot", suggesting those who hold them are prejudiced towards experienced foreign-born BHA staff who have a broad knowledge of international racing.
Declan Lavery, who received a ten-day ban after the National Hunt Chase, in which he was third on Jerrrysback, has appealed against his penalty and the case is due to be heard on Thursday.
The National Hunt Chase was not the only amateur race at the festival which ended up with a ban on welfare grounds for a rider, with Johnny Barry receiving 12 days after Drumconnor Lad fell at the last when tailed off in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir.
Barry said on Monday: "I won't be appealing. I did think 12 days was severe, but I was a bit different to Declan as I wasn't in the money when I came down, and maybe I shouldn't have tried to jump it. I'll take it on the chin and get on with it. Declan is different, though. I really do think he should get off."
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