Amateur jockey Declan Lavery wins appeal against 10-day Cheltenham Festival ban by the BHA
- Declan Lavery was banned for continuing to ride ‘contrary to the horse’s welfare’
- The BHA 10-day suspension caused a storm of protest from within the sport
- Sir Anthony McCoy said the decision made him ’embarrassed for the BHA’
Amateur jockey Declan Lavery has won his appeal against a 10-day Cheltenham Festival ban for continuing to ride Jerrysback in the National Hunt Chase ‘contrary to the horse’s welfare’.
The BHA suspension caused a storm of protest from within the sport as Jerrysback finished third in the four-mile chase on the opening day of the Festival.
The 20-time champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy, said the decision made him ’embarrassed for the BHA’.
Jockey Declan Lavery was handed a ban for continuing to ride ‘contrary to the horse’s welfare’
The ban also was the catalyst for a storm of criticism directed at the BHA questioning their competence as well as questioning whether their approach to welfare issues was too swayed by influences outside the sport.
Lavery was one of three amateur riders suspended after the NH Chase in which only four of the 18 starters finished.
The BHA case hinged on whether the 27-year-old rider should have pulled up Jerrysback, who they said was clearly tiring, after the second-last fence when he made a mistake, dragged his hind legs through the obstacle and lost momentum.
Presenting the BHA’s case, Head of Regulation Tim Naylor said: ‘Jumping the last fence was a risk that should not have been taken.’
Naylor added that: ‘The welfare of the horse takes primacy over obtaining the best possible placing’.
Lavery argued that his mount still had more to give and that had been shown by the fact Jerrysback jumped the last fence slowly but cleanly and then rallied up the run-in to re-take third after being briefly overtaken by Clondaw Cian. He also argued he had allowed Jerrysback to ‘fill his lungs’ between the last two fences and regain his composure.
Three amateur jockeys received suspensions after the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham
Rory Mac Niece, the solicitor representing Lavery, also pointed to the fact that the vets stationed immediately after the finish line had not shown concern for the post-race condition of Jerrysback while the horse’s trainer Philip Hobbs, who gave evidence in support of Lavery, said the horse had shown no ill effects for the race and had actually been entered for the Irish National the next day.
Delivering the appeal panel verdict, chairman Patrick Milmo QC said: ‘Focusing on how Jerrysback jumped the last and ran up the hill indicated he still had more to give.’
But Milmo added: ‘In no way are we passing judgment on the BHA’s welfare policy’.
After winning his appeal, Lavery said: ‘Things happen so quickly. I didn’t think I had done anything wrong and that I had made the right decision. You only have a split second to make your mind up.’
Mac Neice called for the BHA and the sport’s participants to work together to forge a consensus on welfare issues. He added: ‘I’d encourage the BHA to work hard with the jockey and trainer associations. Clearly everybody has a common goal but at the moment the sense is the parties are moving apart.’