Jason Watson loses appeal against ban which caused social media backlash

Jason Watson lost his appeal against a controversial ban which caused a backlash on social media from racing fans.

Raceday stewards found he failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures to ensure Noisy Night was given full opportunity to obtain the best possible placing in a maiden race on May 18, under rule (F)37.

However panel chair James O'Mahoney said Watson's ride posed "low-level damage to the integrity of racing" – and reduced the ban from seven days to five.

Noisy Night, trained by Roger Charlton, swerved sharply left at the start of the six furlong contest and was never on terms, finishing 26 lengths behind the winner.

Representing the British Horseracing Authority, Louis Weston, said: "On the facts of this case, we accept at the start this horse caused Mr Watson, an experienced jockey, problems.

"But he was able to deal with those problems and he brought his horse under control and back in the same line as the rest of the field.

"What he was not allowed to do then was simply to go home giving the horse its own choice as to how fast it ran.

"He was obliged under the rules to ask a question of the horse to demonstrate the horse was being asked for effort."

After receiving the seven-day ban, Watson said on Twitter that he felt "very victimised and unsure of the true intentions of the BHA."

He was inundated with support from racing fans after riding Noisy Night into seventh place out of eight runners.

But Mr O'Mahony ruled the social media content was "inadmissible" in the case.

Evidence included an unsolicited email from National Trainers' Federation president Rupert Arnold to PJA chief executive Paul Struthers, in which Watson's effort received full backing from Flat handlers.

Weston suggested acceptable reasons for not asking for maximum effort on a horse included a jockey suffering an injury or people running onto the course.

"Jockeys have to demonstrate the horse's ability and here hope was not lost," he added.

As well as the footage of Noisy Night's race, panel members were shown a clip of another two-year-old sprint held three days earlier.

Watson finished last on Honky Tonk Man, after a difficult start – and they crossed the line over 16 lengths behind the first-placed horse.

An enquiry was held into the running and riding of the colt and he told the stewards he thought he should allow his mount to finish in his own time. Watson was not banned on that occasion.

Rory Mac Neice, for Watson, said his client rode the horse in the same way as Noisy Night.

The rider told the hearing he asked the colt to go forward from the stalls, when he veered left, so he gave him some reminders with the whip and niggled him along – but his race was over.

"In the end we kind of coasted home," Watson said.

"I was out of contention, there was no chance of me being competitive. I know how difficult it is to make up three lengths let alone ten or 12 especially on a first time out horse."

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