A veteran trainer has spoken of his dismay at being found in breach of the non-trier rules, spoiling a previously blemish-free 36-year involvement in horse racing. The 78-year-old Bernard Llewellyn was fined £2,750 on Thursday and his grandson, the jockey Jordan Williams, suspended for 16 days over what a disciplinary panel ruled was a “schooling” ride given to Triple Nickle at Ffos Las last month.
“I feel it’s a blot on my character, after being a magistrate for 30-odd years and judging other people,” said Llewellyn, whose stable is at Fochriw, near Merthyr Tydfil. “It’s a little bit embarrassing. But there we are, we’ve got to accept it, haven’t we?”
Triple Nickle’s hurdling debut, 11 days before the race in question, had ended badly when she unseated Dave Crosse at the third-last, having been in contention. According to Llewellyn, Crosse felt the jumping error had come because he had made too much use of an inexperienced animal and therefore he instructed Williams to “drop her out” in the early stages of her next race.
Triple Nickle ran on through beaten horses to be sixth at 100-1, beaten 18 lengths, but the barrister Louis Weston argued on behalf of the British Horseracing Authority that she was not asked for a real effort until after the final hurdle, by which time all chance had gone. “This is not show jumping,” he said. “The purpose is not to get a clear round.”
The panel agreed that Williams had not done enough, its chairman, James O’Mahony, saying: “There is a most clear detachment from the start of the race, for a significant period of the race. There is an appropriate and unfortunate inference to be drawn … against the background of the previous unseating of the rider. In other words, this was a race oriented in relation to the horse’s ability to jump the hurdles.”
Under the rules, Llewellyn was then required to prove he had given adequate instructions to the jockey and the panel ruled he had failed to do so. However, O’Mahony went against Weston’s advice in ruling that ‘good character’ could be accepted in mitigation and reduced Llewellyn’s fine from the £3,500 imposed by the raceday stewards.
“I’m disappointed with the outcome,” Llewellyn added. “The horse went to the races to do her best but they didn’t see it that way. She wants a rail, you could see that when she picked up, coming out of the back straight. Hopefully we’ll use that to our advantage and take her to Stratford or somewhere like that, where there’s a rail to help her.”
Williams’s big day in the saddle came in 2016 when he won Fontwell’s Southern National aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained Aerial but he has struggled for opportunities in the last three years. Representing himself, he told the panel Triple Nickle had hung left from four-out and had nothing left to offer by the run-in, but conceded he had given her too much to do, saying: “I should have been a bit closer”.
The Guardian is among the winners
Thanks to the Horserace Writers & Photographers Association, who named me racing reporter of the year yesterday, a welcome recognition for the Guardian’s racing coverage. The usual ceremony could not go ahead for obvious reasons but Sky Sports Racing made a programme out of it, with notable gongs for the Racing Post’s longstanding and very popular David Carr as writer of the year and Hollie Doyle, who was named Flat jockey of the year. Congratulations to all nominees and winners.
Friday’s best bets
Cheltenham stages a really absorbing eight-race card and we’ll all be lucky to get out in one piece. It includes the rescheduled Peterborough, which Top Notch (1.50) can win for a third time, his previous wins having come at Huntingdon and Taunton.
Nicky Henderson’s 9-2 shot is an absolute whizz at Grade Two level, with four wins from six attempts, and has had a wind operation since last seen. A couple of his rivals are rated higher but Kalashnikov has not shone at Cheltenham since being sent over fences and neither has Dolos.
Court Maid (2.25) should arguably be odds-on, with a penalty to carry for her 13-length demolition of 19 rivals at Fairyhouse, so 6-4 is pretty good. Earlier, Speed Company (12.40) looks overpriced at 16-1 in a handicap hurdle, with the step back in trip likely to help. He won a decent race at Chepstow last autumn and is back down to a fair mark.
Chris Cook’s Friday racing tips
Cheltenham 11.30 Any News 12.05 L’Air Du Vent 12.40 Speed Company 1.15 Agent Valdez 1.50 Top Notch (nap) 2.25 Court Maid
3.00 De Forgotten One 3.35 Unowhatimeanharry
Doncaster 11.55 Nightboattoclyro (nb) 12.32 Oscar Wilde
1.07 Gosheven 1.42 Goa Lil 2.17 Glynn 2.52 Chasma 3.25 Bushypark
Bangor 12.20 Arizona Glory 12.55 Khairagash 1.30 Accordingtogino 2.05 Robin Gold 2.40 Ragamuffin 3.10 Minella Drama
3.45 Famous Last Word
Southwell 4.15 Luscifer 4.45 Tipperary Tiger 5.15 Birkenhead
5.45 Ocean Beyond 6.15 Jump The Gun 6.45 Lexi The One
7.15 Bluella 7.45 Magnificia
In Doncaster’s opener, there’s clear potential for Nightboattoclyro (11.55) to be ahead of his mark. He was lightly raced with David Dennis, a few of whose horses have won since joining Tom Symonds. This chestnut is now with Sam Drinkwater, who is in form, and any improvement on his known form makes him a big runner here.