Seven jockeys banned after Sedgefield flag confusion

Seven jockeys banned after Sedgefield flag confusion

Seven jockeys were banned after Sedgefield flag confusion even if the Professional Jockeys’ Association has said the riders may appeal. The decision to void this race after an error that made no difference to anyone is to say the least odd and only makes racing look ridiculous, it even leaves room for speculation.

Let’s take a look at what happened: A steward at Sedgefield waved a yellow flag in error instead of waving a chequered flag, instructing the jockeys to avoid a fence. The jockeys ignored the flag and continued the race, by the time they passed the same fence on the second circuit the correct flag was in use but a steward’s inquiry, called at the end of the race, and it was declared void and all bets refunded.

Common sense was sacrificed in the face intransigency on behalf of the Sedgefield officials. Before the three mile three furlong handicap chase, ‘won’ by Richard Ford-trained Debt To Society was run, it was agreed to bypass a fence in the back straight because the low sun was hampering visibility. Frustrated winning trainer, Ford said: “It is quite a bizarre set of circumstances, but surely it didn’t affect the result – because of the low sun the jockeys couldn’t really tell which flag he was waving anyway. As I understand it all the jockeys are getting 10-day bans, too. It just doesn’t make any common sense.” But a British Horseracing Authority spokesman said: “This is not a discretionary rule and it is very clear. Once the stop-race flag has been deployed, the jockeys must stop riding and the race must be declared void.

“It is not up to the jockeys to decide whether the stop-race flag has been deployed correctly or not.”

Major bookmakers paid out on the “result” and refunded losing bets such as Sky Bet, who elected to pay out on the 4/1 winner on all bets, including multiples and forecasts, and void all losers. Spokesman Michael Shinners said: “These are very unusual circumstances and we felt it right to reward our customers by paying punters who managed to find the winner.” Owners of the racecourse ARC apologised for the inconvenience to those involved in the race, declaring: “The team at Sedgefield will review the incident with the British Horseracing Authority in order to ensure such an error cannot occur again.”

Horse racing might be a multi-million pound industry, but on a cold, wintry day at Sedgefield, you don’t see many state-of-the-art digital transmission systems or flashing lights and beacons to enforce the various rules and regulations that keep things on the straight and narrow. Instead, the sport relies on that most old-fashioned of communication techniques – a couple of stewards with an assortment of flags. And if the wrong flag is waved, the whole thing breaks down in a state of high farce. Surely the same intransigency used to make the decision to void the race, and suspend the jockeys, should be used when planning and selecting race organisers and stewards.