AMATEUR jockey Billy Coonan has been slapped with a whopping 20-day non-trier ban.
The Irish rider and trainer Tony Martin were hauled in front of the Cheltenham stewards after the 16-5 favourite Read To Return finished a never-nearer fifth in the amateur jockeys’ handicap.
Coonan, who had never ridden at Cheltenham previously, had Read To Return held up well off the pace towards the rear of the field in the early stages.
And the horse gradually became detached as the ?-runner field headed out for the second circuit of the three-mile chase.
He virtually had the entire field in front of him as he turned into the home straight and flew home to finish within six lengths of the winner, Hascoeur Clermont.
The ride attracted plenty of attention on social media and it didn’t go unnoticed by on-course officials.
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They held an enquiry and dished out 20 days to Coonan, who won the Jump Jockeys Derby at Epsom in the summer.
The jockey admitted he had been “too symphatetic” with the horse and should have asked him to close down the leaders earlier.
The stewards report read: “An enquiry was held into the running and riding of Read To Return, ridden by Mr B. M. Coonan and trained by Tony Martin. Being a 7lb claiming amateur, Coonan was offered the opportunity to be accompanied in the enquiry but declined.
“The gelding settled towards the rear of the field, becoming detached from the main division down the back straight on the final circuit, before Coonan began to ask for an effort for a short period after the third-last fence, before pausing and then resuming after the second-last fence, whereupon the gelding ran on resolutely from an unpromising position to finish fifth, beaten by six lengths.
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“The rider and trainer were interviewed and shown recordings of the race. The handicapper offered observations and the veterinary officer performed two examinations of the horse, which was selected for routine testing, and had nothing to report.
“Mr Coonan stated that his instructions were to ride the gelding mid-division to three-quarters of the way back, with the aim of being in striking distance from turning in.
“He reported that he had got further back than intended in the first half of the race, and that on the second circuit Read To Return felt flat out.
“Coonan acknowledged that he was too sympathetic in his riding, letting the gelding get too far out of its ground, putting this down to his inexperience in the saddle.
“He continued that he had tried to urge the gelding along at the top of the hill but accepted that his effort was limited and that he only demonstrated real vigour in the saddle having jumped the second-last fence, where Read To Return finished very strongly up the hill.
“The trainer stated that he agreed with the instructions given but informed the stewards that the ride which Mr Coonan had given did not accord with them.
“He expanded that he had been keen to claim off the gelding, but that in hindsight Mr Coonan’s ride was one of real inexperience and one that had come at too early a stage in the rider’s career.
“In his opinion, Mr Coonan should have been closer from the outset, ridden the gelding more vigorously on the final circuit and not allowed Read To Return to become detached.
“Mr Coonan was suspended for 20 days for failing to take all reasonable and permissible measures throughout the race, in that he failed to ride his mount in such a way that he could be seen to ask for timely, real and substantial effort to obtain the best possible placing until too late in the race.”
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