There has been an ongoing saga in horse racing just recently in regard to former Champion jockey Davy Russell.
The 38 year old professional jockey, appeared to strike his mount prior to a hurdle race at Tramore back on August the 18th. The incident which was brought to light via social media showed Russell on board Kings Dolly before the race began and while in and amongst other horses in the race he appeared to punch his mount with his right hand.
After the spotlight was put on the incident, with people in uproar at what they had seen, the Irish Turf Club issued Davy Russell with a caution. This wasn’t seen as strong enough treatment though in nature of the offence. The registrar of the National Hunt Steeplechase Committee lodged an appeal after deeming the punishment handed down to Russell was unduly lenient.
The appeals board duly investigated the matter and after some consideration decided a four-day ban was a more appropriate punishment. At first they were going to hand down a five-day ban but felt that Russell had already been put under enough pressure during the whole course of disciplinary proceedings. Davy Russell claimed that he only struck the horse in order to get it back under control and to make it pay attention, prior to the start of the race at Tramore. So is this a regular occurrence, with Russell just unlucky in some ways to be a jockey caught in the act?
According to many in the sport, Russell’s comments lead many to believe that it indeed could be the case. He pointed out prior to the matter being dealt with that he wasn’t sure if everyone on social media understood how thoroughbred racehorses are handled at race time and insisted he would be happy to talk to the Turf Club about this in further detail. So is this a sort of admission by the jockey that it’s not just he who has struck or strikes his mounts, but others do so for the very same reasons.
There have long been questions raised about the treatment of horses in the racing environment, with many insisting that jockeys whip the horses too much. So Russell’s behaviour only further exacerbated the whole arguments that in some way the sport is cruel. The RSPCA avy Russell also got involved and felt that the racing authorities must lay down tougher measures in cases that involve animal welfare.
What served to make matters worse was the fact that the case against Russell went on for 18 days and many felt that it only came about due to the incident being a huge talking point on social media, rather than the authorities taking a stand. So there are definitely lessons to be learned on both sides.
One things is for sure, Russell himself not only appeared to, but admitted striking his mount; but said there was no anger or malice. He hinted that this could actually be a regular occurrence within the industry but whether that is correct remains to be seen. People, as well as the authorities, will now be looking to see if they can spot other jockeys committing similar offences so it’s unlikely that we will see this kind of incident occur again in the near future.