Doyle returns from harsh Caulfield ban
James Doyle returned to the saddle at Newmarket on Saturday following the completion of a seven-day careless riding suspension picked up aboard Folkswood (Exceed And Excel) in the MRC Foundation Cup (registered as Naturalism Stakes) (Gr 3, 2000m) at Caulfield the previous weekend.
While he was out of luck on the Rowley Mile, finishing no better than third from his four mounts, normal service was resumed at Chelmsford’s evening fixture as he guided the Michael Wigham-trained Verne Castle (Sakhee’s Secret) to success in the five-furlong handicap, picking up from where he left off in what has proven a stellar season for the thirty-year-old.
Notwithstanding any inherent antipodean bias towards a nation that currently holds the Ashes, the circumstances surrounding Doyle’s ban appear to have largely remained unquestioned over the last week, although it is difficult for this observer to legitimise such a draconian punishment for what ultimately appears a marginal offence.
The mount in question is not the most straightforward customer – he habitually wears cheekpieces and often carries his head and tail somewhat awkwardly – while he bended on the wrong lead leg having been asked to quicken on the turn for home. Although Folkswood undoubtedly shifted to his right, causing Luke Currie to stop riding aboard Spanish Reef (Lope De Vega), Doyle had limited opportunity to take corrective measures in a very short space of time, while the repercussions of the interference were not incredibly severe, nor did they alter the outcome of the contest overall.
Although the incident warranted further investigation at the very least, the imposition of a week-long ban appears totally out of kilter with a visual interpretation of the matter, not to mention Doyle admitted his guilt post-race and the Racing Victoria stewards noted the carelessness was within the ‘low range’ when subsequently compiling their report on the contest.
While it would be churlish to directly compare the rulebook between foreign racing jurisdictions, and patronising to imply the British model is a perfect framework from which to work, for it is not, it seems only a matter of common sense that Doyle did not deserve to lose a week’s worth of work on the back of this incident and a seven-day suspension sends a worrying message to international jockeys who plan on riding in Australia moving forward.
This particular case did not cost Doyle any flagship mounts, while the ramifications were not as severe as would have been the case if the ban had occurred during the height of the summer, but the precedent set is psychologically difficult to adapt to given Doyle would have been unlikely to face any disciplinary action had the race been run on British shores.
Doyle’s presence in Australia occurs as part of his retainer for Godolphin and the final decision in regard to where he rides will ultimately be made by Sheikh Mohammed, but this incident will surely remain firmly imprinted within the Godolphin psyche when contemplating sending a retained jockey to ride in the southern hemisphere moving forward, particularly for mounts outside of top-tier company.
Furthermore, as the countdown to the Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) continues to gather steam, and the ageing arguments regarding the ‘problem’ of international domination in the Flemington showpiece are regurgitated once again, the question of cosmopolitanism and foreign participation within the major contests across the globe becomes a prudent topic for discussion.
It is the view of this writer that any mechanism with the potential to jeopardise the opportunity for the best participants, both human and equine, to compete against one another should be actively guarded against and while this over-zealous reaction from the Racing Victoria stewards was clearly not intended to deliberately discourage international jockeys from riding in Australia, heavy-handed punishments for foreign pilots have the potential to deter the best from wanting to head down under moving forward.
Newmarket’s Rowley Mile looked resplendent in the autumn sunshine last week as the three-day Cambridgeshire Meeting took place under near-perfect conditions, with clerk of the course Michael Prosser and his team producing a beautiful surface for the time of year and the unseasonal high temperatures lending themselves to ideal viewing conditions for those in attendance.
Thirty-three runners went to post for the feature nine-furlong handicap that lends the meeting its name and while it is a truism to suggest the race is a fiercely-competitive cavalry charge, this year’s renewal looked one of the best-ever fields assembled for the £160,000 added prize.
Despite this, the John Gosden-trained Wissahickon (Tapit) ran out a ready three and three-quarter length winner under Frankie Dettori, defying a mark of 107 – a lofty rating for a three-year-old – in fine style and looking a stakes performer in the making. That said, the winning jockey was uncharacteristically muted about the performance of the colt in the post-race de-brief, implying he had somewhat picked up the pieces in a frantically-run race, while he almost caused an almighty stir in the parade ring prior to being mounted, putting his groom on the floor and suggesting his mental faculties might prove a hindrance to his development moving forward.
Perhaps the most eye-catching performance in the contest, particularly from the perspective of the southern hemisphere, came from fellow three-year-old Danceteria (Redoute’s Choice), who finished ninth off a mark of 103, shaping like he is capable of better form further down the line.
Trained by David Menusier and carrying the colours of Clive Washbourn, Danceteria shares many parallels with stable companion Thundering Blue (Exchange Rate), who finished seventh in the Cambridgeshire last season prior to improving significantly as a five-year-old this season, justifying a hefty supplementary fee when finishing third in the International Stakes (Gr 1, 1m2f) at York in August prior to landing the Stockholm Cup (Gr 3, 2400m) at Bro Park last month.
Danceteria arrived at Newmarket having won four consecutive contests in the summer prior to finishing fifth in a warm Curragh Handicap (1m2f) on Irish Champions Weekend, being given plenty to do turning for home but finishing strongly in the hands of Fran Berry. He was once again ridden patiently on Saturday, while he was briefly checked heading into the Dip, but he was far from disgraced racing away from the main action as the field met the rising ground, shaping like he will be well suited by stepping back up in trip.
Having officially improved 24lbs across six starts since June, Danceteria promises to continue on an upward curve as a four-year-old and it would be no surprise if he were being spoken of as a Group-race performer in twelve-months’ time, while he will almost certainly become the highest-rated European-bred son of former Haras de Bonneval shuttler Redoute’s Choice (Danehill) in the process.
Finally, Danceteria’s earlier form includes a five-length success over the Ralph Beckett-trained Breath Caught (Bated Breath) on the July Course in midsummer and the latter returned from a 68-day break to post an improved performance on the step up to 1m3f at Kempton on Wednesday, making all under Harry Bentley to get the better of two unexposed rivals by a length and a quarter.
A three-year-old half-brother to the high-class Twice Over (Observatory), Breath Caught is catalogued as Lot 1098 in the upcoming Autumn Horses-In-Training Sale at Tattersalls and he is sure to be a popular as a potential southern hemisphere acquisition if he asked to go through the ring as part of the draft from Juddmonte Farms.
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