22 February 2023

Williams ‘heartbroken’ as 18-day ban scuppers Cheltenham hopes

22 February 2023

Lorcan Williams described himself as “devastated” to be missing the Cheltenham Festival having been banned for 18 days after breaching the new whip rules at Haydock on Saturday.

Williams was riding Makin’yourmindup in the Prestige Novices’ Hurdle and narrowly got the better of Kevin Brogan on Collectors Item, who was also suspended for eight days.

As the race was a Grade Two, both jockeys had their penalties doubled. In Williams’ case he used the whip twice above the permitted level of seven and with his arm above shoulder height.

“I’m absolutely devastated to be missing the four biggest days of the year. Obviously I’m not going to be the only one, but I’m absolutely heartbroken. I’ll just have to take it on the chin and keep moving forward,” Williams told Sky Sports Racing.

“I found the shoulder height (rule) very difficult. It’s a very hard situation for me. I’ve been trained my whole life, I’m lucky enough to live in an area with a jockey coach, so we’ve been trained all our lives for that.

“I’m one of the biggest jockeys in the weighing room at 6ft, I’m a big bloke, and the technique I use is for the welfare of the horse that I’m riding. I get very low in the saddle, I tuck myself away to make myself sellable to owners and trainers. I’ve got very long arms and the technique I use of bringing it over my head is to make sure I’m making the right connection with the horse in the correct spot.

“I tried all things, even when the rule of the backhand was informed (since rescinded) I was keeping it in the backhand for muscle memory, but I’m not the only jockey that has been pulled in.”

Williams admitted he was not keeping count of his strikes in the tight finish, but claims to do so in the heat of a race is challenging.

He said: “It’s very difficult, with all the emotion that comes across in a close finish when you are trying to finish in the best possible position. I’m a jockey who rides very much off instinct.

“On Saturday I only used my stick from the back of the last, I used it twice in the backhand because myself and Kevin Brogan got close and had a little collision, so I used my stick with instinct. I used two in the backhand to correct my horse, then switched over to the left and used on instinct to ensure the best position.

“I’m very aware of the rules but it’s very hard with all the emotion that comes in, it’s very difficult (to count). I rode off instinct and I wasn’t aware of how often I’d used it – like I said, two of my hits were to correct my horse.

“If it had been two weeks before I’d have been only getting four days, but now it’s ruling me out of the four biggest days of the year.

“It’s a lot for a jockey to take on board, we have a lot to think about and having that held above us, it is very difficult to get in the right position and control the horse.”

It was quite stressful because I had to wait until about 6pm, so I was refreshing my emails flat out

Williams explained he knew soon after the race that he had transgressed, but was not officially informed until 6pm on Tuesday that he would be getting a ban.

“We were made aware we were being called in,” he said. “There was a collision so that was all sorted in an inquiry, then we were brought in separately and we had to give our reasoning as to using our whips in that manner. That’s always been the way it has been.

“I had to wait until yesterday (to find out). It was quite stressful because I had to wait until about 6pm, so I was refreshing my emails flat out. It was quite a bit of stress waiting to see what we were getting.

“My coach rang me and I’ll be popping in once a week and I’ll be trying my very best to get this correct.

“I think we all need to come to an agreement and meet in the middle because at the moment, even in the bedding-in period it wasn’t a success and I think owners, jockeys, trainers and the BHA all need to come together because at the moment us jockeys are seen as the inflictors and we need to get the right image across.”

The BHA’s chief regulatory officer, Brant Dunshea said: “The whip has been used not only above the permitted level, but also from above shoulder height on multiple occasions. This is a breach of the rules in most racing jurisdictions.

“Lorcan was advised on numerous occasions throughout the bedding-in period of rides that would amount to a breach of the new Rules should he continue to ride in the same manner. The Review Committee have included a mandatory session with the British Racing School as part of his penalty.

“This is part of the purpose of the Committee, to bring about improvements in riding standards.”

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