PAT KEANE: Cullen gets off lightly as stewards make wrong call

IT’S A puzzle, a real puzzle! At Fairyhouse last month, Chris Hayes was suspended for two days, having been found guilty of careless riding, after he had won on a horse called Laldie.

At Bellewstown, Wayne Lordan got two days for careless riding, after he had won on Vamizi Island.

Then at Roscommon on Monday evening, Fran Berry was given a day aboard Dawn To Dance, when the mare hampered Bold Identity.

In none of the three cases cited could anyone quibble with the decisions made by the stewards.

Hayes, Lordan and Berry hadn’t ridden particularly dangerously, but had been careless and suspensions were inevitable.

But here’s the puzzling bit, how did John Cullen only get two days for what he produced at Wexford yesterday week?

There was simply no comparison between the “crimes”' committed by Hayes, Lordan and Berry and what Cullen did.

The Wexford contest was a handicap chase and a whole wall of horses had a chance in the closing stages.

Cullen was riding Pipers Blaze, who came right across the field close home, under a left-hand drive.

Essentially, Cullen had the whip in his wrong hand and, with a number of horses getting tightened up, Courella was sent spinning to the turf near the line.

It was a very nasty incident and Courella’s rider, Alan Crowe, was more than lucky to escape relatively unscathed.

The stewards, taking Cullen’s excellent previous record into account, felt two days suspension was quite sufficient.

I might be wrong, but I’d say John Cullen sang all the way home from Wexford!

DEREK O’CONNOR came in for fair bit of criticism, after he had won on Salute Him at Bellewstown last Saturday night.

O’Connor, regarded as a quite brilliant point-to-point rider, has never quite grabbed the imagination of the public in the same way on the track and the fact he frequently likes to delay his effort until very late probably has plenty to do with that.

When it succeeds it looks as if their is a genius at work and when it doesn’t, well draw your own conclusions.

At Bellewstown, O’Connor waited and waited and then waited again. The contest was practically over before he finally launched his challenge and it was only in the final strides Salute Him got up to beat End Of The Affair by a head.

There were plenty who were critical of O’Connor and Justin O’Hanlon was especially scathing in his analysis of the contest in the Racing Post.

Whether you agree with O’Hanlon or not, you have to admire him for having the courage of his convictions and avoiding the temptation to go the diplomatic route.

Personally, I thought O’Connor’s performance was one of the rides of the season. There were grave doubts regarding Salute Him’s ability to stay 12 furlongs and 150 yards and, I would contend, he couldn’t possibly win ridden any other way.

The furthest he had ever won over on the flat previously was ten furlongs and, when trained in England by Mick Channon, had the speed to score over five furlongs at Folkestone.

IMAGINE being dropped in the weights by the handicapper for winning a race. That was the case with Jessica Harrington’s Blaze Brightly at Naas last Wednesday night.

Blaze Brightly took her maiden at Killarney in early June, rated 82, and, you might have thought, would edge up a little for that.

But no, the handicapper took an entirely different view and allowed her to compete at Naas off a mark of 80. She finished second, beaten a head.


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