In a belated inquiry by the Horseracing Regulatory Authority which had originally been held and then adjourned last February, the former champion jockey was found in breach of Rule 158, which covers failure to take all reasonable and permissible measures to obtain the best possible placing.
However, Spencer was not found guilty of the more serious offence of Rule 157, the ‘non-triers’ rule, which relates to not riding the horse on its merits.
Spencer rode Mickmacmagoole, trained in Ireland by Seamus O’Donnell, to win at Wolverhampton on November 14, 2005 before partnering the gelding in the Watch Football Whilst You Bet On ITVi Banded Stakes at Southwell a week later on November 22.
It was this race which the HRA looked into particularly, with Mickmacmagoole drifting in the betting on the day before finishing only eighth.
The case was referred when he returned to Southwell for another banded race on December 12 and won easily when well-backed.
Spencer, legally represented by Rory Mac Niece, based his defence on the fact that Mickmacmagoole had not given him the same feel on his first run at Southwell as he did on the occasions subsequently and previously. He said he did not ride as prominently on that occasion because he was trying to stay in the slipstream of another fancied horse in the race and his mount was soon off the bridle.
“He was a different horse. When I asked him for an effort four furlongs out, he was beat and I was not going to flog him to death,” Spencer explained in questioning.
Tipperary trainer O’Donnell, a good friend of Spencer’s when they were youngsters working at Tommy Stack’s yard, supported this and felt he may have run him too quickly, as well as the fact that the horse had been left in Britain in the interim, which may not have helped matters.
However, Graeme McPherson for the HRA repeatedly made reference to Spencer’s apparently more forceful ride to get Mickmacmagoole to win at Wolverhampton, compared to the ride at Southwell when he gave the horse one slap of the whip and rode with his hands and heels to the line when the chance of winning had disappeared.
McPherson disputed the idea of riding with just hands and heels being acceptable to obtain the best possible placing and summed up that Spencer “stopped trying”.
“It is regrettable that finishing eighth is seen as good as seventh,” he declared.
Spencer will now be off games from between January 16 and 30 inclusive, because he already picked up a five-day ban at Kempton on Saturday for interference and a whip offence, keeping him out between January 17 and 21 as it is.
His punishment is in the middle of the recommended seven to 14 days.
“Obviously I am disappointed to be banned as I stand by the ride I gave, but I am glad I have been cleared of deliberately stopping a horse, as that is the reason I came here,” said Spencer.
“I think my riding at Kempton on Saturday showed my commitment as a rider when I got two bans.
“I wanted this situation resolved last February, but I’d like to thank the HRA for allowing me to ride in Hong Kong and to continue in the meantime.”
O’Donnell was cleared of any wrongdoing and reported Mickmacmagoole to have some heat in his leg at the moment, which was keeping him off the track.
The whole affair is not completely over, however.
HRA press officer Paul Struthers said: “There will be more charges, but not with any licensed individuals.
“They will not involve the race Jamie Spencer was found in breach of Rule 158, but it has fallen out of this investigation.”