PJA expresses dismay at Watson punishment

Axana wins at Lingfield under Jason Watson
Image: Axana wins at Lingfield under Jason Watson

Jason Watson and the Professional Jockeys Association were left disappointed after the rider's controversial seven-day riding suspension was reduced to only five days on appeal on Thursday.

Watson spoke on social media of his frustration with the punishment when it was handed out by the stewards at Nottingham, after his ride on the Roger Charlton-trained Noisy Night earlier this month.

Making his debut, the Night Of Thunder colt had veered sharply on leaving the stalls, losing many lengths.

Watson said at the time he had simply looked after his mount as he had lost all chance and felt "victimised" by the stewards' decision, with the officials ruling the rider was guilty of "failing to take all reasonable and permissible measures to ensure Noisy Night was given full opportunity to obtain the best possible placing".

In a statement following the appeal heard by an independent disciplinary panel, PJA chief executive Paul Struthers said: "We are bitterly disappointed to have lost Jason's appeal and struggle to understand the decision.

"What does the BHA and the panel say Jason should have done? Did he need to ride hands and heels for half a furlong? A furlong? All the way to the line? Did he need to ride more vigorously than hands and heels?

"We are concerned that the BHA and the judicial panel are applying the rules with their focus on integrity, in circumstances where in Jason's case everyone agreed he acted in good faith. This was not a ride where integrity was an issue.

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"They are also ignoring the myriad shades of grey that exist within racing. Jason's chance had gone before the race had begun and he then acted in the best interests of the horse. After today's ruling, how does the judicial panel and BHA say a jockey may act in the best interests of the horse?

"A reduction of a suspension from seven to five days still represents a working week where Jason will be deprived of the chance to earn his living."

Struthers added: "We referred the panel to a race that had taken place at Newbury three days before the race at Nottingham. Jason rode a two-year-old in that race who caused problems immediately after the start and was subsequently ridden in an almost identical manner.

"The stewards at Newbury did not find him in breach, yet the Nottingham stewards did, even though he was beaten almost twice as far.

"What are jockeys supposed to make of that?"

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