Track Talk: Smullen ban shows need for right type of sanction to fit crime
Sunday’s Derrinstown Derby Trial at Leopardstown proved to be a rather uneventful and uninformative as regards finding an Epsom Derby horse is concerned, although we did see a real good horse in Success Days win again but soft ground appears the key to him.
The colt is a credit to his trainer Ken Condon and was a worthy winner. If some of the more high-profile absentee’s from Sunday’s race had taken their chance, you’d have to say he would have given them plenty to think about, so it’ll be good to keep watching Success Days throughout the season and see what big races he can pick up.
However, while the ground was the main reason why we had no leading Ballydoyle contender in the line-up, the prospect of punters getting to see Dermot Weld’s Zawraq was taken away long before the ground got very bad.
It was suggested by connections that a missed piece of work and the prospect of that heavy ground were the reasons behind not running but you can’t help but feel that the absence of Pat Smullen through suspension was another major factor in their decision.
Smullen is a major cog in the Weld operation and if the trainer is going to target a race such as the Epsom Derby he would undoubtedly want the valuable feedback of his long-term stable jockey after a major trial but owing to a two-day suspension picked a fortnight earlier and the fact that the Derrinstown isn’t a Group One race, Smullen was sidelined.
An appeal was unsuccessful but as a result, in my opinion, the racing public were denied the Derrinstown being a spectacle worth making the effort to go to and Weld’s plans were thrown up in the air.
Now of course you can say if Smullen did the crime he has to do the time and only for his good record he may have been handed more than two days by the Limerick stewards. But in fairness to the champion jockey, he didn’t try and plead his innocence when making his appeal to the Turf Club. He was honest and explained what impact missing the Derrinstown could have on his season.
Had Zawraq run last Sunday and been ridden by Paul Hanagan and the pair won impressively, Smullen may have been at risk of losing a once in a lifetime opportunity to win the Epsom Derby, one of the biggest races on the calendar. Is that right?
It’s like asking if Roy Keane should have missed the Champions League for picking up a yellow card in a semi-final or if an amateur GAA player should miss an All-Ireland Final for an innocuous offence. My opinion is certainly not and I have the same feeling for jockeys.
Had last Sunday been a Group One day, Smullen would have been cleared to ride under a rule that any suspension of three-days or less is put off on Group One days but here we had a Group One horse running on a non-Group One day.
Surely we could have an appeal process that allows jockeys make their case to delay their suspension rather than trying to appeal the severity when they accept the severity was fair but what they’re potentially missing isn’t.