Williams given 16-day ban

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 March, 2005, 12:00am

Australian jockey Craig Williams was stunned last night when Hong Kong Jockey Club stewards suspended him for 16 meetings at the conclusion of an inquiry into his handling of Trust Me at Sha Tin last Saturday.

Williams was found guilty of breaching Rule of Racing 99 in that he had failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures to ensure Trust Me was given full opportunity to win or obtain the best-possible placing in the field.

The Australian was visibly upset and spoke only briefly after leaving the Happy Valley inquiry room shortly after 8.30pm but strongly protested his innocence.

'I'm extremely disappointed with the stewards' findings tonight,' Williams (pictured) said. 'I maintain I've done absolutely nothing wrong. I don't want to say anything more just at the moment, but I'll certainly be considering an appeal.'

Trust Me, prepared by Ricky Yiu Poon-fie, started at odds of 14-1 and finished sixth behind favourite Sheriff Bamboo in the class four handicap over 1,200 metres on the all-weather dirt track.

The seven-year-old was one of the first to begin but, in keeping with the way he's normally ridden, was restrained behind the early speed.

On return to scale after the race, Williams volunteered to stewards that he'd been hit in the face by a clod of dirt in the early stages of the race. However, after viewing videos of the race, stewards called him back to the room and formally opened an inquiry into the ride.

Chief steward Jamie Stier reported last night that there were six particulars to the charge against Williams. They allege that Williams had not taken any measures to maintain a forward position on Trust Me after beginning 'extremely well' and then failed to take several opportunities to improve his position in mid-race.

The stewards also said Williams 'failed to ride Trust Me with any initiative, endeavour, or vigour at any stage ... until about the 300 metres'. Williams pleaded not guilty to the charge. His suspension will come into effect after tonight's Happy Valley meeting and, unless he appeals, he will not be able to ride again until May 12.

Stewards told Yiu his evidence had been accepted.