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Irish riders hit with bans following National Hunt Chase

Irish riders felt the wrath of the Cheltenham stewards at the culmination of the opening day of the 2019 Festival, when Rob James, Declan Lavery and Noel McParlan were all given length suspensions following the running of the National Hunt Challenge Cup.

Run in deteriorating ground conditions, just four of the 18 starters managed to complete the race, with leading point-to-point riders Jamie Codd and Barry O’Neill battling out a thrilling finish to the four-mile contest.

However, the steward’s eyes were drawn to events further back in the pack and held a number of enquiries into the race.

Rob James was aboard Just Your Type for Charlie Longsdon, with the pair falling at the last whilst in fourth position. However the Cheltenham stewards issued two separate suspensions to the Wexford rider, banning him for seven days for ‘using his whip when his horse was showing no response from approaching the home bend’.

The successful point-to-point rider was then given a longer 12 day suspension as the stewards deemed that he ‘had continued in the race when it appeared to be contrary to the horse’s welfare’. That brought his combined suspensions to a total of 19 days.

Noel McParlan and Declan Lavery were both issued with suspensions for the same reason.

Former northern champion McParlan, who won the Kim Muir at last year’s Festival was handed an eight day suspension for his ride aboard Mulcahys Hill who fell at the penultimate fence, whilst Lavery was suspended for ten days, despite finishing in third position.

The ten-day suspension given to Lavery in particular, has drawn particular criticism from many leading figures within the sport.

Following the running of the National Hunt Challenge Cup and the bans that were handed out by the Cheltenham stewards, the BHA issues a statement stating:

“While we will carry out our full wash-up after the Festival has completed, it is fair to say that we are extremely disappointed by the conduct of a small number of riders in the National Hunt Chase.

“Riders were briefed and reminded of their responsibilities before racing, and this included their responsibilities when it comes to pulling up tired horses.

“The Cheltenham Review was clear that amateur riders should be aware that they are subject to particular public scrutiny and that amateur participation in its current form at future Festivals will be under material threat should further incidents occur.”

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