Johnson Talks Good Sense

Richard Johnson received a five day ban (March 21-25) for marking his mount Stop The Show in the three-mile handicap chase at Ffos Las on Monday then put forward one or two more than reasonable suggestions as to how the infringement occurred and just what might be done in future to take mitigating factors into account, writes Elliot Slater.

One of the brightest and most articulate jockeys in the business, Johnson would be amongst the last riders to spring to mind as ‘whip happy’, but following on from the recent suspensions received by both Jason Maguire and Jamie Moore, Philip Hobbs’ stable jockey believes that the rules need looking at again, although he has no intention of appealing as according to the law as it currently stands he has no basis on which to defend himself.

Fortunately for Johnson, set to partner strongly fancies Menorah in next Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle, his suspension runs during a period where there are no showcase meetings, but that certainly wasn’t the case for Maguire who had to go to a BHA appeal before having his suspension reduced from seven days to six, enough to allow him to maintain his partnership with leading Champion Hurdle fancy Peddlers Cross in next week’s big race. Anyone who follows the horse racing betting odds will know that not having the preferred jockey on board can really harm a horse’s chances.

Under the rules as they stand, if a horse returns with wheal marks caused by the whip a jockey must be suspended. The rules don’t take into account the fact that the horse could have been ridden in exactly the same way in previous outings but had never previously marked. Johnson believes that the recent spate of suspension coincides with the arrival of spring and horses losing their winter coats, making them more susceptible to marking even if such an occurrence had never happened before.

It sounds a reasonable explanation, and although excessive or incorrect use of the whip should always be punished, there should surely be some discretion allowed stewards who determine there to have been mitigating circumstances.