20 Feb 1997 Pre-2014 Releases

The Abandonment of Racing at Haydock

Published: 20 February 1997

The Disciplinary Committee of the Jockey Club held an enquiry on 19th and 20th February 1997 to consider the circumstances which led to the abandonment of racing after the first race at Haydock Park on 16th October 1996, and whether or not Gary Bardwell, Mark Birch, Nicky Carlisle, John Carroll, Gary Carter, Kevin Darley, Stephen Davies, Frankie Dettori, Brett Doyle, George Duffield, Pat Eddery, Kieren Fallon, Paul Fessey, David Harrison, Gary Hind, Rodney Lappin, Dean McKeown, Darren Moffatt, Dane O`Neill, Jimmy Quinn and Michael Tebbutt, committed breaches of Rules 143 and 220(iii) of the Rules of Racing in the light of their failure to ride in the Sycamore Nursery Handicap.

The Committee heard evidence in person from Messrs Bardwell, Birch, Carlisle, Carter, Dettori, Duffield, Eddery, McKeown, Moffatt, Quinn, and Tebbutt, who were all legally represented, and heard from the legal representative of the remainder who were absent. It also heard from the Chairman of the Panel of Stewards, two Stewards` Secretaries, Major Philip Arkwright the Clerk of the Course, a Jockey Club Inspector of Courses, Willie Ryan, Walter Swinburn, and Peter Chapple-Hyam.

Having considered the evidence the Committee found all the jockeys with the exception of Dettori, not to be in breach of either Rules 143 or 220(iii) because it accepted that they were prepared to ride. It found Dettori to be in breach of Rule 143 but not Rule 220(iii). Having regard to the circumstances the Committee decided not to impose any penalty.

An explanatory notice follows:


On Tuesday 15th October the going was altered to heavy after there had been 22mm of rain overnight. The Clerk of the Course decided to move the rail on the top bend in by 6 yards so that the horses would be racing round virgin ground on the outside of the Steeple Chase track.

At 6.30am on the day of racing, the Clerk of the Course checked the course and confirmed the going as heavy. During the morning there were further showers amounting in total to 3mm, but the Clerk of the Course walked the course at 10.00am and was satisfied that it was fit for racing.

At 11.30am the Chairman of the Panel and the Clerk of the Course walked the important parts of the course and the Chairman was in agreement that the 5 yards of virgin ground allowed racing to take place in safety, taking into account the number of runners in the races scheduled to run round the bend and the distance of the races. With the Chairman`s agreement the Clerk of the Course posted a notice in the Weighing Room drawing the attention of jockeys to the steps he had taken to ensure a true racing surface and pointing out that this gave five yards of decent ground, but that outside this line the ground was very bad entering the bend. He also spoke to the jockeys before the first race drawing their attention to the notice and explained it to them.

The first race was run on the round course over 7 furlongs with ten runners. At the start some riders mentioned concerns about the ground to the Starter, but decided to proceed with the race. After this race certain riders, who had just ridden, were concerned about the ground and asked to represent their views to the Stewards. A deputation of jockeys consisting of Frankie Dettori, Walter Swinburn and Willie Ryan, together with Peter Chapple-Hyam, the trainer, spoke to the Stewards, and the Stewards` Secretary sought the views of the jockeys overall. The Stewards decided to hold an inspection with the deputation of jockeys, the Senior Stewards` Secretary, Clerk of the Course and a number of other riders, including Dean McKeown, Richard Hills, Jimmy Quinn, John Carroll and Pat Eddery. They inspected the top bend, the entrance to the home straight for a furlong and inside the two furlong marker. Differing views were expressed by the jockeys present as to the fitness of the ground for the second race, which was a 5 furlong sprint over the straight course. The public were kept informed of developments.

The Stewards then returned to the Stewards` room and, after some discussion, decided that it was safe to run the second race and that they would continue to monitor the ground conditions thereafter. A public announcement to this effect was immediately put out.
Shortly after this decision was announced the Stewards` Secretary visited the jockeys` changing room. As a result of what he was told, he reported back to the Stewards who decided to abandon the meeting, and this was announced over the public address system.
On 19th and 20th February 1997 the Committee heard evidence from the Chairman of the Panel of local Stewards, the Stewards` Secretaries, an inspector of courses, and numerous jockeys who were present at Haydock on 16th October. The 21 jockeys who were to have ridden in the second race were all represented by solicitors and Counsel, and most of them gave evidence either orally or in writing.

The Jockey Club has a written procedure to be followed when jockeys express concerns about the safety of the course, a copy of which is attached. The steps taken by the Stewards at Haydock followed this procedure up to and including the making of their decision to proceed with the second race, and to monitor the position thereafter. Having considered the evidence as to the state of the ground on 16th October 1996 the Committee were satisfied that although the conditions were bad, the Stewards` decision was a proper one, and that the course was safe for the riding of the second race.

However, the procedure requires that once a decision has been made the jockeys` representatives should be informed of the decision, before any public announcement is made. This was not done. In the opinion of the Committee much of the situation could have been avoided if Jockey Club Instructions had been followed through, and following the course inspection the deputation of jockeys who accompanied the Stewards on their visit had been advised in the Stewards Room of the decision to continue with racing.
The jockeys were adamant that there had not been a “strike” as had been reported, and the Committee was satisfied that there was not a collective decision to refuse to ride.
Whilst returning to the changing room from the course inspection Mr Dettori had already decided that he would not ride further that day because of fears for his own safety and that of his mounts. When the Stewards` Secretary entered the changing room after the decision to proceed with racing had been announced, Mr Dettori communicated his decision to him. Having found that the Stewards` decision to proceed was a proper one, the Committee did not find Mr Dettori`s reason for failing to ride an acceptable one.

As to the remainder of the jockeys, the Committee concluded that the jockeys were not properly called out for the second race. When the Stewards Secretary entered the jockey`s changing room shortly after the public announcement that racing was to continue he asked who was prepared to race. One jockey, whom the Committee was unable to identify, said that none was prepared to race, which the Stewards` Secretary accepted as being the case. However, many of the jockeys were wearing their racing silks and skull caps in readiness to ride. A number of the jockeys present did not hear the question asked by the Stewards` Secretary, or the answer given. Some did, but because the atmosphere was confused they did not leave the changing room or make known a willingness to ride. The report which the Stewards` Secretary made to the Stewards as to the jockeys` intentions was based on a misunderstanding. The committee found that the jockeys were not given a proper opportuni