More controversy at Stratford
By Will Hayler. Last Updated: 30/05/14 8:24pm
Stratford crowds again enjoyed drama in the race and the stewards' room.
For the second time in little more than a couple of months, the location of Stratford's water jump was once again at the centre of a controversial stewards' inquiry, again featuring jockey Sam Twiston-Davies.
It was at the end of March that the stewards acted after the finish to a similar handicap chase and demoted the Gavin Sheehan-ridden Dolatulo in favour of Sam Twiston-Davies' mount Benbens.
However less than a fortnight later the British Horseracing Authority's appeal panel had reversed that decision and also quashed a four-day ban for careless riding handed to Sheehan on the day.
That incident, just as this one, was caused when the riders came together on the run from the final fence to the winning post, a run which features an unusual elbow as the field have to avoid the dolled-off water jump, which is not jumped on the final circuit.
After that race, Stratford's management launched a vigorous defence of the siting of the water jump, which was reinstated in 2008 after the track found that it was safer for horses than when a plain fence was trilalled in the same position. However the issue will now undoubtedly be placed under the spotlight again.
On this occasion, Twiston-Davies finished first past the post aboard Mcllhatton in the Sims Garden Machinery Novices' Chase, the 11/8 chance who had jumped well throughout from the front and repelled 4/6 favourite Rum And Butter's challenge by a neck.
But the pair had come together as Tony McCoy manouvered for room in order to get on to the racing line and as the pair passed the winning post together, McCoy could be seen expressing his opinion on the situation to his colleague.
An inquiry was quickly called and within 20 minutes the places had been changed. Richard Westropp, one of the two stipendiary stewards who had been on duty for the first Stratford race, was again on the panel for this contest, joined this time by Charlotte Risius.
BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey admitted that "a second incident of its type within a matter of a couple of months" would force the authority to take another look at the situation.
"It's worth pointing out that since the water jump was reinstated, there hadn't been any incidents of this kind over a number of years, but it would obviously be remiss of us not now to take a look at the situation and work with Stratford to see if there are other options," he said.
Mounsey confirmed that the decision of the appeal panel in the previous case and their reasons for overturning their demotion of Dolatulo had been explained to the stewards "as part of our normal processes".
Unfortunately, history now seems likely to repeat itself again with connections of Mcllhatton likely to appeal the decision and the two-day ban handed to jockey Twiston-Davies, the stewards having ruled that he was "guilty of careless riding in that he had failed to allow Rum And Butter a clear run on the outside".
Just as before, much of the meat of the appeal is likely to concern the extent to which a jockey riding to their line is obliged to move over and risk losing ground and momentum in order to allow a challenging rival the space to strike.
Again, just as before, universal agreement over the matter seems unlikely.