Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cooper's accusers are scraping the barrel

Having been around the racing game for some while I can assure you that nothing sickens me more than a jockey that is thrashing a horse who is not responding and is clearly beaten. Such a misdemeanour deserves punishing, but the massive 52-day ban handed out to amateur rider Robert Cooper recently is simply a travesty of justice, writes Elliot Slater.

Cooper is certainly not the most stylish jockey I've ever seen, but to most seasoned observers his winning ride on Elton Fox at Uttoxeter on New Year's Eve was in most aspects a good one, gathering his mount up to go after the leader on the run-in and driving him home to score by a length from Avenging Ace. There's no doubt that Cooper exceeded the new limit on using the whip, (he admits that), but the punishment was based on his horse not having been given time to respond, yet the gelding went from being two-lengths down after the last to a length in front at the line, so he must have been responding, mustn't he? Fans of victor chandler racing should think about this.

52 days is a massive ban for an amateur who has limited riding opportunities, but less than 24 hours after that news broke, Cooper rode another winner on board Mortimer's Cross at Fontwell - a horse who didn't need any persuasion and was only struck once during the closing stages - and in a show of bottled-up exasperation and obvious joy threw his whip away as he crossed the wining line. Anyone looking at the Stan James betting should bear this in mind.

Horse racing is about winning races, and if a horse can be persuaded to try harder when in with a realistic chance of improving its finishing position without being abused then the whip should be used. Abuse of the whip should be punished, but 52 days for a good winning ride? The BHA ,(who banned senior jockey Robert Winston for 22 days just a day later for a similar breach), have got this wrong and need to quickly review their guidelines before we are left without enough jockeys to partner the intended runners at the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival!

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