What a Pau-laver! British rider among seven banned after wrong-course drama
There were chaotic scenes at Pau in south-west France on Wednesday as seven jockeys in the claiming hurdle took the wrong course, leading stewards to void the race and dish out 15-day bans to all involved.
Freddie Mitchell was among the seven riders to head out on to the final circuit of the Prix de Morlass who failed to take the correct outer track.
There appeared to be a difference of opinion between the two jockeys leading the race, with Thomas Henderson – a former champion apprentice on the Flat – heading towards the outer, while Adrien Fouchet, along with the majority of the field, stuck to the inner.
Mitchell, who is spending a second winter in Pau having joined the upwardly mobile yard of Hector de Lageneste, was sitting third aboard the William Menuet-trained Hannou Pol Avenue when the field incorrectly went inside the designated cone before taking the first fence away from the stands.
"I was aware what had happened straight away," said Mitchell. "My instructions were to follow Thomas and to stick out wide because the ground is very heavy at the moment.
"We went past the stands and Thomas hung left. I stayed out with him but – although it's no excuse because I know the track well – when five lads stay inside and two of you have gone left, it's quite hard in the heat of the moment."
One by one the riders realised their errors and pulled their mounts up in the back straight, although Fouchet didn't finally become aware that he was the last left going until turning into the home straight.
"We should have known and, even though my horse was 50-1 it's the first time I've got booed cantering back," reported Mitchell, who first went to France to ride for Guy Cherel but lost his place in the pecking order there are after missing several months through injury.
"It's the first and definitely the last time something like this has happened. Luckily I'm with a really good boss [Lageneste] and he was absolutely fine afterwards.
"We are both a bit gutted because I will be missing out on a big conditionals' race as well as a couple of claimers I would have ridden in for him."
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