Paul Struthers: had raised concerns about Matthew Lohn
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
THE BHA will start this week having ended the last one in a state of deep embarrassment. For the Professional Jockeys Association the situation is somewhat different.
To many observers it will seem astonishing solicitor Matthew Lohn was considered suitable to chair BHA disciplinary panel hearings given the BHA had been one of his clients since at least 2014. What is even more astonishing is when concern regarding the relationship was expressed in clear terms to the BHA well over a year ago there was no acknowledgement that immediate change was necessary.
It was the PJA that expressed the concern. On this occasion the BHA did not sufficiently take on board the wise counsel being offered by the jockeys’ trade body, which is unfortunate as in other areas the organisations are working well together, highlighting how effective and influential the PJA has become.
Having now conceded Lohn should not have been chairing the panel that so strongly condemned Best, the BHA has accepted the guilty verdict must be quashed and is seeking a second hearing. We should never have arrived here.
In his response to BHA notes submitted following the PJA’s 2014 end-of-year meeting with the governing body, PJA chief executive Paul Struthers pointed out that matters raised by the PJA regarding the disciplinary panel had not been included in the notes. He then went on to say conversation relating to the disciplinary panel was “quickly cut short” by the BHA and repeated his worries about Lohn.
“The BHA is a client of one of the legal members of the panel yet this has never been disclosed,” wrote Struthers. “This is entirely improper. The fact that the BHA is a client of a member of a panel hearing an appeal against a decision made by the BHA is clearly a relevant matter that should have been disclosed to the appellant. There is no good reason why it was kept from the jockey and his adviser.”
Wrapping up a series of disciplinary panel comments, Struthers added: “We do not ask for the above points to be addressed on a point-by-point basis other than the non-disclosure of the fact the BHA is an active client of one of the legal members of the panel, which really does need to be addressed directly by the BHA.”
It seemingly was not addressed by the BHA, at least not to the extent Lohn was dropped. However, two points of fairness and qualification do need to be made.
Adam Brickell, the BHA’s director of integrity, legal and risk, has taken a hammering on social media. This would seem to be unfair. As Brickell’s department is responsible for investigating and prosecuting individuals it would be completely inappropriate for him to have direct responsibility for the disciplinary panel or its composition. Moreover, the BHA’s integrity review has been welcomed by the PJA.
Second, BHA chief executive Nick Rust was not in charge at the time of that December 2014 meeting with the PJA. He has also been closely involved in a number of areas in which the riders’ association has made progress.
Chester: had a number of horses not run due to self-certificates
PICTURE: Getty Images
Self-certification out of hand
One of these is the ongoing farce that is the self-certification of
non-runners, which the BHA boss could well tackle.
The PJA has led the way in calling for a tougher line to be taken. Far too many horses are pulled out with self-certificates. Many do not run due to reasons that seem hard to fathom. In recent weeks there have been two standout examples. A horse was taken out of a race owing to a change in the ground, which was officially good to firm, good in places. He won two days later on good to firm.
At another meeting a trainer withdrew a sprinter from a 6f handicap due to the ground, which was good. He ran the following day at the same track in a 5f handicap when the ground was still good.
In an entertaining stewards’ report, it is stated the officials noted the trainer’s representative’s explanation that the horse “had been declared a non-runner due to the change in going, but the owner felt the horse would be better suited by good going over five furlongs, rather than the previous day’s engagement, which was six furlongs”.
It is understandable why such matters infuriate the PJA. Jockeys receive only 40 per cent of their riding fee if a horse is scratched after 9am on the day of a race. They should receive their whole fee on the basis they could potentially have taken another mount and might well have incurred unnecessary transport costs. Under the current system racecourses can also lose out, as, in some cases, do the connections of runners who fail to make the cut for a contest due to the declaration of a horse subsequently pulled out using what might be a questionable self-certificate.
The BHA looks set to help the PJA make headway on the matter, while it this year agreed to the PJA’s persistent demand, based on safety worries, for all horses to race with a full set of shoes in turf Flat races.
The BHA, and in particular its learning and development partner Gill Greeves, is also working with the PJA’s sister body, the Jockeys Employment and Training Scheme, to revolutionise the way in which embryonic riders are educated and developed. With the full backing of the PJA there is a desire to train fewer jockeys but to train them better. The strategy makes absolute sense and some startling statistics
– such as 30 per cent of jockeys never ride a winner and 88 per cent of jockeys do not ride out their claim – underline why.
If a smaller number of jockeys do end up coming into the sport they will become members of what is increasingly an extremely strong constituent group, working well not only for jockeys but also the wider sport.
It is furthermore a body that, putting last week’s disastrous disciplinary panel development to one side, is deriving considerable benefit from a surprisingly healthy working relationship with the BHA.
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