Seven jockeys banned for ten days amid chaotic scenes in finale at Sandown
Extraordinary events at Sandown on Saturday in the closing London National left jockeys confused, punters bemused and the sport scratching its head as another major occasion was overshadowed by a fiasco, with one of the trainers involved slamming the procedures.
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.
Jamie Moore, Daryl Jacob, Adam Wedge, Stan Sheppard, Harry Skelton, Jamie Davies and Philip Donovan are set to miss the valuable Christmas schedule with the bans due to start on December 21 but pending appeal.
Officials took the decision to void the race as there were people on the track attending Houblon Des Obeaux, who suffered what was later reported by trainer Venetia Williams to be a fatal heart attack, on the final bend of Sandown's chase course just after the pond fence.
The seven riders bypassed the fence in front of which the flag-waving official was standing, and only narrowly missed the stricken Houblon Des Obeaux around the home turn.
Dan Skelton, trainer of Get On The Yager, ridden by his brother Harry, said: "In the opinion of the jockeys I've spoken to, it [the flag] wasn't clearly visible. How that is interpreted is up to the authorities."
Skelton had stronger words for the process used to stop a race, which he feels is "inadequate" and leaves jockeys confused.
"Regardless of the outcome of this, we have to wake up to it being 2019," Skelton added. "It is completely inadequate to have just one flag out there.
"We are running LED advertising boards around the racecourse. It would be simple to have an LED board making it absolutely clear and concise that the race should stop.
"We need to stop putting one man in the middle of a muddy field. This is affecting these jockeys at the busiest time of the year. Every time that flag comes out, somebody gets a ban and it's not good enough. It must be addressed."
However, Chris Rutter, the chief steward on duty at Sandown, explained: "The yellow stop-race flag was put in place due to a stricken horse just coming into the home straight. When that flag is flown it means the race must stop and the race has been declared void.
"The jockeys should have continued up the home straight but they went round the pond fence. All those involved have received ten-day bans. The stop-race flag is there when there's a major hazard ahead. When that flag flies you have to stop riding.
"The film clearly shows the flag was there and that some of the jockeys have gone to stop and then ignored it. That's what the film's telling us and for that the jockeys have got ten days."
The jockeys reported hearing a whistle but said the flag was not clearly visible in the gloom.
Rutter said: "I don't think it was that dark, we had at least 30 minutes of daylight left at the time of the incident. The weather conditions should have nothing to do with it."
Seven runners finished the race, with the Neil Mulholland-trained Doing Fine coming home first under 7lb claimer Philip Donovan, who thought he had secured the biggest win of his fledgling career.
Similar scenes occurred at Wetherby in 2011 when Sir Anthony McCoy was among ten jockeys banned for ten days for failing to heed a yellow flag.
The ten-day bans could prove particularly costly for Jacob, who is set to miss rides on Footpad, Bristol De Mai and Call Me Lord over the festive period.
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