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Lavery successful in overturning controversial Cheltenham ban

Declan Lavery was successful in his appeal against a ten-day ban that he received following the running of the National Hunt Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival nine days earlier.

Lavery was one of the three riders issued with a ban, as the suspensions that were also given to Rob James and Noel McParlan came to a cumulative total of 37 days.

The Cheltenham stewards had decided that having finished third aboard Jerrysback, and beaten 47-and-a-half lengths that he ‘had continued in the race when it appeared to be contrary to the horse’s welfare after tired jumping errors at the final fence,’ and handed down the suspension.

That decision sparked widespread criticism, with AP Mc Coy and Nicky Henderson just two leading figures to come out in support of the Downpatrick native in the following days, and it unsurprisingly led to an appeal hearing which took place in Central London at the BHA Headquarters in High Holburn on Thursday.

The disciplinary panel which consisted of Dr Lyn Griffiths, Patrick Milmo QC and Chloe Fairley found in favour of Lavery, quashing the decision of the raceday stewards and returning his deposit.

Following the decision, Lavery told Sky Sports Racing of his relief.

“I’m very relieved and delighted that we got the result we were hoping for. I was very shocked to be honest (to receive the suspension), I was delighted with myself to get him around because he nearly fell on me a couple of times.

“When they called me back in and gave me ten days, it sort of took the buzz away a wee bit so it did. We are delighted to get it overturned.

“I just haven’t thought about it to be honest, I just put my head down and didn’t think about it and just couldn’t wait to get this day over with to be honest, it’s nice to get it over and done with.

"I had a really good team behind me, I had Andrew (Coonan), I had Rory (Mac Neice) and Mr Hobbs - I was very happy he came up to help me. I didn't feel like I'd done anything wrong. I was quietly confident I'd get it turned round, but having the right people behind me made it a bit easier.

"I was confident I'd done the right thing. I can get back point-to-pointing this weekend, get things back to normal.

"It was brilliant AP (McCoy) was standing up for me. He gave me his phone number and told me to ring him anytime, maybe that's just a Northern (Ireland) thing."
The BHA released a statement following the successful appeal which read:

“The BHA accepts the findings of the Independent Disciplinary Panel in today’s appeal hearing. It is the view of the BHA that the Rules should be a roactive and reventative measures to avoid horses being put in a position of avoidable risk and the stewards on the day acted in accordance with this.
“However, the finding of the Discoplinary Panel was that the current construct of the Rules indicate that the rider was not in breach of Rule (D) 45.3.2. We will await their written reasons before commenting further on the issue.

“Stewards have to make immediate decision in the midst of a sporting event. That is why an independent appeal process exists which offers a fair process for challenging stewarding decision. A range of incidents happened during this race which the stewards had to consider. Other decisions have not been challenged at appeal.

“The Panel were also clear that the requirement of the Rules to pull up tired horses has primacy over the requirement to achieve the best possible placing, and that it is no justification to continue on a horse to finish placed in a race if doing so would be contrary to the horse’s welfare.

“This rule is 20 years old and was agreed by all groups in our sport who are represented on our Rules Committee. It has been invoked a number of times in recent years. It continues to be an important rule that demonstrates our commitment to protect the welfare of our horses.

“We thank Mr Lavery for the way he has conducted himself since the incident, and also trainer of the horse Philip Hobbs.”

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