A Friend In Need…

by Ed Meyer

posted on November 19, 2008 in News | No Comments >>

Winning jockey Jason McKeown got himself in hot water at Cheltenham – after admitting he took another jockey’s whip.

The 23-year-old was given a two-day suspension following the extraordinary incident in the first race of the Open meeting, the Irish Times Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase.

McKeown took the whip of King Harald’s jockey Donal Devereux with three fences to jump and then rode Hoop out to win by three-and-a-half lengths.

McKeown said: “I was so far back and I was kicking and kicking, and I thought I had to get a stick.”

“I’ve never done that before, but there’s a first time for everything.”

His horse wasn’t going anywhere and he wanted to get the job done.

“I didn’t cause any inconvenience and I didn’t try to knock anybody over – I just borrowed the stick for a while.”

“He gave the stick to me and I’d have done the same in his position.”

An inquiry was called after the owner of the runner-up, Alexanderthegreat, lodged an objection to the winner on the grounds that McKeown had taken Devereux’s whip.

The stewards ruled that no interference had taken place and ordered the placings remained unaltered.

They found McKeown guilty of improper riding, but winning trainer Gordon Elliott was delighted with the jockey’s efforts.

“The best horse won on the day,” said this year’s Grand National-winning trainer. “It was a brilliant ride.”

Devereux said McKeown had needed his whip, so he gave it to him.

“I was going nowhere and was going to pull up,” said Devereux.

Stipendiary steward Simon Westropp said there was no provision under the rules to cover McKeown taking the whip.

“We thought the general covering of the improper riding rule would let us deal with it, but we didn’t feel there were grounds to punish Mr. Devereux for letting him take it (the whip),” he said.

Venetia Williams, trainer of Alexanderthegreat, said the rules should be cleared up.

“There should be a rule about what happens if you drop your stick and whether you can take someone else’s stick,” she said.