Stratford woe for Walsh

A turbulent week for racing took another twist last night as Ruby Walsh was hit with a 14-day ban following a dramatic finish to the Pertemps Handicap Chase at Stratford.

The incident comes hot on the heels of Sam Thomas taking the wrong course at Fakenham on Sunday, a move which led to him being handed bans totalling 17 days.

On Wednesday two meetings were abandoned due to unsafe ground and on Thursday a race at Salisbury went off three minutes early.

Walsh had his head down and was in full flight after the final fence as he gave chase to leader Surface To Air on Alan Hollingsworth’s Gallik Dawn.

But Walsh noticed too late he was heading towards the water jump rather than going to the left-hand side of it.

He managed to negotiate the barriers in front of it but had no option than to jump the water.

A stewards’ inquiry immediately ensued and not surprisingly Walsh was disqualified after crossing the line in second place.

Ironically Walsh won the first race of the night on Oumeyade, the horse Thomas went the wrong way on. He will be out of action from June 7 to 24 on days when jumps racing takes place.

With Walsh and Thomas facing lengthy suspensions, champion trainer Paul Nicholls incredibly now has both his stable jockeys sidelined and he was reportedly unhappy about the layout of the Stratford track.

But clerk of the course Stephen Lambert told At The Races: “You have to set it against the background that we’d had a problem with the fences in the home straight which weren’t jumping properly and we had a lot of horses falling who shouldn’t have fallen.

“That is why we took the decision to put a water jump in. Some people don’t like water jumps, but we did take consultation on it.

“What has happened is bad for racing, it is bad for Stratford and it is bad for the owner. We clearly need to go away and think about this and think whether we need to move the water jump or whatever. But I must emphasise safety is the whole reason we redesigned the home straight.

“I’m sorry for the jockey, it is very unfortunate for him, but at the end of the day he is a senior professional jockey and it is up to him to know how to ride the course. Having said that, I do think it might have been an accident waiting to happen so we will go away and think about it.

“But at the end of the day my job is to get as many horses and jockeys back in one piece. The water jump has helped us achieve that object. The question is, is it in the wrong position?

“I’ve just talked to Paul Nicholls and he thinks it is definitely in the wrong position. He is very upset about it.

“As clerk of the course I shall certainly learn from what has happened and I shall certainly go away and think how we might do it better.”

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