It was a massive relief for all of us involved in the void London National at Sandown that our appeals were upheld on Tuesday. It’s been quite stressful as the Christmas period is a very important and busy time of the year, but we’re all glad it’s over.
Looking back on the race, it was due off at 3:35pm and it was around 3:40pm-ish when we swung into the straight on our approach to the Pond Fence. There was only 12 minutes left of light and it was a gloomy old day.
When we turned into the straight we heard a whistle and as we looked up we saw the screens were up behind the Pond Fence. As you’re travelling on that part of the track you’re running uphill on a dogleg. You couldn’t really determine where the screens were, it looked like they were on the landing side of the fence and that’s where you’d normally associate screens. That’s why we’ve gone round the fence, it was only passing it that we’ve seen the screens were on the inside of the bend.
You have to make a split decision when you’re travelling at speed. My attention was drawn to the screens, unfortunately not to the flag man who I didn’t see. When we came in we were told by connections that there was a flag of some description and when we looked at the TV screens in the stewards’ enquiry you could see a man holding a flag. It’s stated in the rules that the flag should be waved. Of course, ‘wave’ can mean different things, but what I saw in the stewards’ room wasn’t what I would call waving a flag.
Going forward I think we all need to work together to prevent this from happening again. Obviously, we all know a yellow flag means the race is stopped and there are dangers out there when this flag has been deployed. If a clerk of the course decides to deploy the stop race flag for everyone’s safety, the race must simply stop. It shouldn’t fail, so hopefully, the industry can come together to try to make this a better and safer procedure.
The panel was very understanding. Every jockey knows there is no benefit from carrying on when seeing a yellow flag. I can’t thank the Professional Jockeys’ Association (PJA), led by Paul Struthers, and Rory Mac Niece enough. Obviously we’re all very happy with the result and are now looking forward to some fantastic racing over the Christmas period.
I’m very happy with how things are going, the horses have been in great form all season. We didn’t run as many this summer as we did last, so numerically I was much further ahead than I am now, but the main thing is to stay fit and healthy. You never know what might happen.
It looks like it’s going to be a very exciting title race and it’s brilliant for the sport that Dickie [Johnson] and Brian [Hughes] are so close at the top. Obviously, Brian is predominantly riding in the north and he picks up a lot of good rides from different trainers up there.
But we all know how dedicated and determined Dickie is, and that the title is always his priority. He certainly won’t be giving up his trophy without a fight and it will be a really exciting few months ahead.
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