IN the great scheme of things, it’s hard to see how anyone could work out that jockey Pat Cosgrave’s misdemeanour at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai on Super Saturday merits a 6-month ban, writes Newmarket trainer JOHN BERRY on his blog, Stable Life.
Berry argues: I‘m writing from the point of view of someone who took a dim view of Pat’s riding on the day, but this is just stunning!
There’s no excuse for doing what he did on his mount Anaerobio, i.e. looking around to check the whereabouts of his better-fancied stablemate (Vercingetorix), and then moving over to make sure that that horse doesn’t get boxed in. It’s indefensible, not least because if makes it look as if he might have had a bet on the other horse, and that’s an appalling impression to be giving.
But (one has to) bear in mind that Pat gave Anearobio a faultless ride in every other respect, and actually probably rated him better than most of the other riders in the field did their mounts.
Emirates Racing’s Steward-In-Chief, John Zucal (left), confirmed the controversial suspension of jockey Pat Cosgrave.
– Photos originally published by Al Adiyaat, Dubai.
I was expecting Pat to be severely reprimanded and cautioned as to his future conduct, with an accompanying word in his ear to say that if he ever did it again, he’d be for the high jump. Maybe this WAS his second offence and this IS the high jump, but if so that’s news to me.
One should, of course, mention that there is a precedent for a jockey in this situation receiving a six-month ban: that’s what ‘The Sherriff’, John Schreck, handed out to jockey Shane Dye after the 1987 AJC Derby at Randwick in Sydney, Australia, when Shane moved off the rail on Dr. Geoff Chapman’s second stringer Imprimatur to let the first stringer (the Mark de Montfort-ridden Myocard, who won the race) through.
But that was Sydney in the 1980s, when The Sherriff was in town, when Ron Quinton received a three-month ban for causing interference when winning the Golden Slipper on Marauding, interference which didn’t cause a fall and which wasn’t serious enough to be interpreted as foul riding, which would have seen his mount disqualified. And, anyway, in the ’80s penalties in general were far harsher than is the case nowadays. It was, after all, in Sydney, where penalties at the time were far harsher than anywhere else anyway. Pat Cosgrave would have received a six-month ban had he done that in Sydney in the ’80s and he wouldn’t have had any grounds for complaint. But nowadays? Well, you’d expect a slap on the wrist!
In France such a manoeuvre wouldn’t attract any attention at all, but I’m not suggesting that we base ourselves on the French model (with horses in the same ownership coupled for betting purposes, and with the only requirement being that the jockey on one of the entity is trying, with the others free to ride their horses as uncompetitive as they like).
We’ve seen umpteen similar instances in Britain or Ireland (often involving either Godolphin or Coolmore) go unpunished, but I think that it is now the case that in Britain a week’s ban would be the penalty. I am indebted to Graham Cunningham for reminding us that this is what Johnny Murtagh and Colm O’Donoghue received for their ‘team tactics’ after Duke Of Marmalade won the Juddmonte International when it was run at Newmarket after the Ebor Meeting was washed out in 2008. I am also indebted to Robert Havlin for pointing out that BHA Rule b57.1 states that the offence for making a manouevre to allow another horse a clear run but causing no interference is 5 to 10 days. Yes, 5 to 10 days!
It is, of course, terrible to adopt a habit of saying that, because a misdemeanour carries such and such a punishment in one’s own country, it should carry that punishment in all other countries. That’s xenophobic nonsense. But, even so – SIX BLOODY MONTHS! (And in a country where there is no betting, which ought to make this less of an issue, rather than more).
All I can say is that it would be disappointing if the ban weren’t reduced by at least 95% on appeal; and, if it weren’t reduced, it would be disappointing if the BHA didn’t elect not to reciprocate the ban, bearing in mind that it took the major step last year (with the Martin Dwyer Indian thing) of setting a precedent that, if a jockey is given a punishment by an overseas turf authority which, by our standards, is completely beyond the pale, it won’t be applied here.
As regards the appeal, the most important thing for Pat to take with him into the appeal is a video of the 2001 Irish Champion Stakes (after which no bans were handed out) in which the tactics used by the Godolphin team were similar, only worse (i.e. not only did the rider of the Godolphin pacemaker move off the rail to let the Godolphin first string Fantastic Light through, but he also forced the main rival Galileo wide in the process, thus affecting the result, bearing in mind that Galileo failed only narrowly to catch Fantastic Light).
As Timeform reported at the time, “Fantastic Light made the first move, striking for home as Give The Slip was eased off the rail on the final turn to allow him through. Galileo had to begin his own challenge three-wide, racing round the outside of Give The Slip …”. It’s worth remembering that all employees of the ERA are, in effect, indirectly employed by Sheikh Mohammed, so I would suggest that Pat points out to the stewards that they might like to reflect on the fact that these are tactics which their boss appears happy to adopt.
Race caller Terry Spargo – Dubai Racing’s ‘folksy, homely cheerleader’. – (gulfnews.com).
Anyway, God knows what has got into the Emirates Racing Authority (ERA) stewards. Over the years the ERA has, rightly or wrongly, given the impression of being a cosy little club. Godolphin’s travails over the past year or so certainly have only served to add to this impression (as, incidentally, do the folksy, homely, cheer-leading race-calls of Terry Spargo).
The fact that Pat Cosgrave even felt that it might be okay to do what he did in the race shows how far down the wrong road, the road towards laissez-faire cosiness, the ERA had actually gone. Maybe a decision has been taken, in the aftermath of Lord Stevens’ report, to make it clear to the world that the ERA is not just that cosy little club which it had always seemed. If so, I applaud the stand which it has decided to make – but I also urge it to consider whether this was indeed the correct issue on which to make it.
About the Author:
–John Berry, who briefly competed as an amateur jump jockey, has trained racehorses at Beverley House stables, Newmarket, UK, since 1995. A keen writer and blogger, he writes a weekly international racing column for Australia’s leading racing paper, Winning Post, and is a regular guest on At The Races’ international programme.
I always support your stable Mike and I am a proud South African, but in my view you guys should accept this suspension for Pat Cosgrave – he transgressed a racing rule and has been handed a punishment by an official board of stiepndiary stewards who were doing their job.
Pat Cosgrave and your stable, should take it on the chin. What will happen if jockeys are just allowed to do what they want, ride all over the place in a race, all over the course at will? There has to be rules that are to the benefit of the sport of horseracing and that protect the betting public. I had no bets on Anarobio, but what if he was the public favourite and Cosgrave looked around like he had and he got beat by (for instance) an unfancied outsider. There would have been a complete outcry and everyone would have asked for a life suspension, never mind six months.
Let it go, you guys have winners to prepare.
Well done to the stipes and Mr Zucal for setting an example of firm policing of the sport of racing.We the punters deserve it. Mr Zucal if you ever get tired of the desert, come knock on our doors here and fix things in SA racing!
Honesty First i agree with most of what you say however I do believe that 6 months is a cruel punishment for the jockey.
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As a racing fanatic with I believe enough knowledge and experience to pass comment, I am troubled by jockey Pat Cosgrave’s lengthy suspension reported on by yourselves and other media. I will explain two specific reasons for my disgruntlement. Kindly consider publishing my mail with a minimum of editing or censorship. Alternatively just keep it on file for future reference.
From some research done I believe it is fair to say that the sentiment among racing writers and other experts of the industry is that Pat’s six month banning is nothing short of a sadistic joke. Convicted criminals sometimes get away with lesser prison sentences handed out in statutory Courts of Law!
My first concern lies with the physical constitution of the ERA’s Board of Stipendiary Stewards. It is predominantly Australian – so much so that there is an even more ominous ring to the term “Kangaroo Court”. In my view the one-sided formation of the ERA Board will subject any number of their future rulings to ridicule. This will have negative ramifications for the global image of the UAE’s famous Racing Carnival as horseracing’s well-advanced trendsetter.
Secondly, with Pat Cosgrave established as an important member of the South African racing team in Dubai, I detect the hint of a vendetta against the constantly prize-winning South Africans. Our long-standing rivalry with Australians is well documented and includes incidents of bitter strife on and off the sports fields.
So what was Pat’s wrongdoing? The authorities commenting on this website and other influential blogs agree almost as one that he actually rode a good race but for the fact that he looked back, “suspiciously” – for wont of a better word – a few times coming to the straight.
In the Biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah, the wife of Lot was told to leave her abode “post-haste” as fire and brimstone was about to fall upon the two cities. She was implicitly warned not to look back on her way to safety and morality. The Scripture relates that curiosity got the better of the unfortunate mother of two. She momentarily delayed her exit by peeping over her shoulder at the carnage left behind and was promptly turned into a pillar of salt.
Cruelly too, Mrs Lot’s looking back at the shamed city of Sodom forever attached to the already horrifying incident the verbal variations of an act considered unnatural and unlawful in certain countries and is punishable by death in some places!
At present day, the scenario resonates: The buggery of Cosgrave by the ERA amounts to an act against the good nature of horseracing. They are the ones who should be punished, not the mild-mannered hoop!
Six months is an extraordinary length of time in the relatively short career of a jockey. A suspension like this brings with it lasting damage to a good reputation, the potentially strangling loss of income and the added aggravation of having to start from scratch to prove factors like fitness and mental strength after a long layoff. For a jockey, getting back into the swing of things in an industry where dog devours dog is invariably an arduous process that can add a further two, maybe three months to the off-time served.
My research shows that the ERA’s Stipendiary Board consists of a senior Australian and two kids whose names at birth were also registered Down Under. I suspect that they’d been contemplating a way of confirming Commander John Zucal’s Might and Power after his recent appointment. Fate threw Pat Cosgrave at their mercy. Being a South African ally, his transgression of a very disputable rule presented an opportunity to kill two birds with one big stone whilst having a huge gallery in attendance.
A nice windfall came in the form of fellow-Australian Terry Spargo, the race commentator, who launched excitedly into a tone of mock surprise when Anaerobio moved gradually away from the rail on the home bend. I found grizzly Terry’s high-pitched protest eerily unsettling and quite remarkable. Perhaps someone had pinched his Vegamite sandwich prior to the race. Spargo has never reacted in this fashion when team tactics are employed by “blue” horses racing at Meydan. An apparently untouchable “blue spot” evident here.
To the best of my knowledge the incidents of death among jockeys in Australia is higher than anywhere else in the world. Their Stewards do not allow a false rail, they don’t like pace-setters, especially when they are from the same stable and it is evident there is little love lost between them and the jocks. They come down on jockeys who try to use their brains or initiative in races where there is no pace on – like the authorities in the rest of their country, they try to enforce a nanny state.
Now, in Dubai, we have Australian officials presiding in a racing jurisdiction dominated by European horses, trainers and jockeys annually in view of the global racing public for at least three months. I think there is no balance on the board, but this could be solved by employing for example two senior European stewards to the existing board to ensure fairness.
This predominantly Australian board’s is tasked with maintaining the integrity of racing, but the Pat Cosgrave incident casts what in legal terms could be described as reasonable doubt on their ability to police Dubai racing effectively. It is also known that the Chairman Mr Zucal was involved in an alcohol-related incident in the Land Of Plenty, in which doubt was cast on his integrity. How can he, therefore, uphold this principle in the UAE which is on top of everything a Muslim region. One wonders who briefed Sheikh Mohammed on his appointment?
As things stand, I think that the ERA Stewards somehow believe they have a point to prove – to quote from their National Anthem, “… we’ll rouse to arms like sires of yore..”. This board might want to “Advance Australia Fair”, but as I see it they will send horseracing in decline… Unfair!
G C Oberholzer
Glenn, what is a ‘hoop’, a ‘mild-mannered hoop”as you say in your letter’?
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In Australia they call jockeys hoops. strange.