Barry Geraghty has admitted to feeling a mixture of delight and relief following his successful appeal against his 30-day ban for his ride on Noble Emperor at Limerick.
The Gold Cup-winning jockey was hit with the lengthy suspension after finishing second aboard the Tony Martin-trained eight-year-old in the www.limerickraces.ie Handicap Hurdle on April 3, a race won by Velocity Boy, who made all having opened up a big advantage on the field from an early stage.
The local stewards were of the opinion Geraghty had failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures to obtain the best possible placing and handed him a 30-day ban that would have ruled him out of next week’s Punchestown Festival.
However, the suspension was quashed following a lengthy appeal hearing at the Irish Turf Club on Monday evening. Speaking in his At The Races blog, Geraghty said: “I was obviously delighted with the decision of the appeals body at the Turf Club on Monday night to uphold our appeal into the ban imposed for the running and riding of Noble Emperor at Limerick. I was just relieved that they saw the race in its true light.
“It has been a tough few weeks, with the whole thing hanging over me, and it was a long night on Monday.
“But the appeals panel - Judge Tony Hunt, Lesley Crawford and Martin O’Donnell - took the time to listen to both sides and to view relevant races, past races as well as the race on the April 3.
“I was completely shocked on the day when I learned of the suspension, and it is great credit to the appeals board for seeing the race for what it was, and for clearing all of us of any wrongdoing.
“It is a big relief that any potential damage to my reputation has been avoided, and it is brilliant that I will now be able to ride at the Punchestown Festival next week.”
Meanwhile Un De Sceaux, Vautour and Douvan have all been entered in Saturday’s Bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown by title-chasing trainer Willie Mullins. The Closutton handler is locked in a thrilling battle for the championship with Paul Nicholls, who also has three possibles at this stage.
Mullins’ Champion Chase runner-up Un De Sceaux would appear to be the obvious contender, although Douvan has dominated the two-mile novice scene this term, winning the Arkle in fine style at Cheltenham before dominating his rivals at Aintree.
Vautour landed the Ryanair Chase at the Festival and he is also entered in the Oaksey Chase at Sandown.
Un De Sceaux finished behind comeback king Sprinter Sacre in the Champion Chase and Nicky Henderson’s two-mile star is also in the reckoning for this race. Nicholls has entered former champion Dodging Bullets, Grand Annual winner Solar Impulse and Ulck Du Lin. Another Champion Chase winner in Sire De Grugy, the consistent Special Tiara and Kerry Lee’s Top Gamble make up 10 entries.
Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard reports Cue Card to be in excellent shape ahead of his rematch with Don Cossack at next week’s Punchestown Festival.
Cue Card was the beneficiary of Don Cossack’s fall in the King George at Christmas but roles were reversed at Cheltenham with Colin Tizzard’s star departing at the third last in the Gold Cup.
With Don Cossack absent from Aintree, Cue Card bolted up in the Betfred Bowl and fans are licking their lips ahead of the Bibby Financial Gold Cup tomorrow week.
“Cue Card has come out of the Aintree race really well and he was so fresh the following day that I couldn’t be happier with him. He’s not had a hard second half to the season and he seems in as good a shape as he has been all season,” said Tizzard. “He was also in lovely form the day after the Cheltenham Gold Cup and bounced out of that race and schooled nicely before Aintree.
“He was in as good as form as he had been all season then and while I didn’t think he would be as impressive as he was in Liverpool, he sure ran a massive race.
“I think he would have won the Gold Cup.”
The Tizzards are also set to bring over Thistlecrack, the undisputed king of staying hurdlers after strolls at both Cheltenham and Aintree, and he will be looking to go one better than last year as a novice at the meeting. With increased prize money, the Tizzards purposefully targeted all three Festivals with their big guns.
“Punchestown is a good meeting with serious prize money and this year it fits in well after Aintree with three weeks between them,” added Tizzard. “Every year we’ve started to bring more and better horses over and we’ve kind of saved our best horses like Thistlecrack to do the three.”
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