The jockey Callum McKinnes has been given an eight-week suspension under the non-trier rules for a ride described as “absurd” by a disciplinary panel. The 23-year-old said he had panicked when World Trip made “a gargling noise” on the run-in and hung off a true line on her way to finishing fifth in a Hereford novice hurdle last month, but admitted he had lied to the raceday stewards in claiming that a series of erratic movements he made in the saddle were just part of his normal riding style.
“After the last hurdle in particular, we can only describe some of his actions as absurd,” said Tim Charlton QC, who chaired the panel. McKinnes’s riding had been criticised at length by the British Horseracing Authority’s barrister, Louis Weston, who said over replays of the closing stages: “He starts to make erratic movements with his arms, out of rhythm with the horse. What is he doing?
“He’s jiggling, dancing about. His horse reacts badly to it, for obvious reasons. That is no way to ride a racehorse. And then, as soon as he gets to the line, he rides normally again.”
McKinnes, an inexperienced jockey after only 81 rides, said World Trip made a noise as if having a breathing problem, but said he did not want to pull her up because he felt she was still responding. The panel accepted that part of his evidence in light of a vet’s report saying she had a breathing operation within days of the race but was less impressed by his claim that she hung to one side, finding “minimal” evidence in the footage.
“It doesn’t look like my normal riding style,” McKinnes conceded, “but I’ve never been in this situation before, a horse hanging with me and making a noise. You could almost say I panicked a little bit.”
To Weston’s question, “Have you ever seen anyone ride like that before on a racecourse?” the jockey replied that he hadn’t. The barrister pressed on: “Your elbows are coming out like you’re wassailing, what possible purpose is that serving? We see normal-ish riding and then suddenly bounce, bounce, bounce. What are you doing with your head?”
“I’m nodding,” McKinnes replied.
“Why are you nodding?”
“I’m not sure,” responded the jockey, seeming increasingly beleaguered. He described his riding in the race as “this weird style which, I’m not sure where it came from”.
The BHA also pursued a case, unsuccessfully, against World Trip’s trainer, Olly Murphy, but did not offer detail on what motive Murphy might have for wishing the horse to be so ridden. The trainer’s barrister, Graeme McPherson QC, argued there had been no handicapping advantage, as the jockey had reported World Trip’s breathing problem to officials upon dismounting and as a result the handicapper would ignore the Hereford run.
Murphy told the panel he was at the time making a habit of stressing to his younger jockeys that they must push each mount to the line, following a case at Huntingdon where he and the rider Fergus Gregory were punished for what was ruled to be a “schooling” ride given to Rock On Tommy. The trainer insisted he should not have been found in breach that day, but had decided it “wasn’t worth” the trouble of an appeal. The panel decided that on this occasion he was not in breach of any of the rules.
As Murphy watched the Hereford race from his Warwickshire stable, he was represented at the track by his racing manager, Camilla Cotton, who attracted criticism from Weston for misleading the raceday stewards. She agreed she had told them she was happy with the ride and had failed to dissent when asked if that was how McKinnes normally rode.
Before the panel, Cotton accepted that in fact McKinnes’s riding had “totally gone to pot” after the final hurdle. Explaining her evidence on the day, she said: “I found myself in a very awkward position. I work with him on a day to day basis. We’re friends. We travelled to the races together. I should have been truthful.”
Murphy said he would continue to use McKinnes after the jockey completes his suspension. “It was a situation Callum found himself in from the back of the last. He’s got no experience and it was just one of those mistakes that he’s made through having no experience. He is very, very upset.”
Friday’s best bets
Musical Slave (2.25) was a little tricky to assess last season, not least because his only win was achieved under a thick blanket of fog at Exeter on New Year’s Day. But, winning or losing, he generally had the look of a horse with the potential to be ahead of his rating in that first season over fences, following his handicap hurdle success at the 2019 Punchestown Festival.
With his stable hitting its stride, he can put up a good effort at Newbury, even though we can expect to see him over further at some stage. He fared well on heavy in the spring but doesn’t have to have testing ground. The 14-1 looks big.
Paisley Park (3.00) is 9-4, even 5-2 in places, for the Long Distance Hurdle, which seems an over-reaction to one bad run. If an irregular heartbeat explains his Cheltenham flop, we may now see a return of the horse who won his previous seven on the spin. McFabulous is an exciting talent but he is not entitled to beat Paisley Park on these terms.
The closing handicap hurdle ought to be competitive but Hill Sixteen (3.35) looks thrown in, judging by his chasing win last week on his first start for a new stable, so 7-4 is pretty good.