Nicholls out of pocket following long trek from York to Newbury
Apprentice rider Megan Nicholls was left frustrated on Thursday after a nine-hour round trip to Newbury from York proved fruitless when her only intended ride was pulled out less than an hour before racetime.
Nicholls, the daughter of leading jumps trainer Paul Nicholls, is based in York and was due to ride McDelta for trainer Geoffrey Deacon in Newbury's 1m3f apprentice handicap at 9.00. However, she was informed by Deacon with 45 minutes until the off the horse was a non-runner because the ground was unsuitable.
The going was described as good to firm, good in places, the same conditions when declarations were made.
Nicholls said on Friday: "I was just about to go and weigh out when I was told my horse wasn't running. If I'd got a call after the first race at least I would have been an hour down the road and I could have turned around and gone home."
Under current rules, if a horse is declared a non-runner after 9am on the day of racing, a jockey is entitled to 40 per cent of the riding fee, which is £120.66 on the Flat.
Nicholls therefore picked up £48.26, minus her agent's fee of ten per cent, for a wasted journey.
She added: "It's frustrating. Perhaps it should be that after the first race is run or half an hour before the first race you should still get a full fee if a horse becomes a non-runner. It's cost me more in fuel so I've lost out."
Deacon said: "The owner Peter Cundell consulted with Dane O'Neill, Robert Winston and John Egan and they said the ground was good to firm with no good in it. He therefore felt it was too firm and didn't want to run the horse and risk injuring him."
Deacon added: "Newbury is very local to us so we got there about two hours before the race. By the time we got there, got unloaded, saw the ground and spoke to the jockeys that was when we made the decision. The ground was faster than was anticipated."
The PJA's executive director of racing Dale Gibson was sympathetic towards Nicholls' plight and said the incident highlighted two problems within the sport.
"The BHA are still conducting their non-runner review but it's too easy to take a horse out when there's no discernible change in the going," he said. "It's disappointing that we're still allowing this."
On the compensation Nicholls received, Gibson added: "It's fortunate that Megan receives full riding fees from her boss, which highlights another frustrating issue with those who claim 7lb and 5lb [and therefore earning a smaller percentage from the fee].
"Many of them are not being paid mileage expenses by their boss as the BHA training agreement stipulates. That is a sad state of affairs in 2017."