Champions Mile

Unjust verdict besmirches Fradd

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2006, 12:00am


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The stewards had the final say in the Robbie Fradd appeal last week, giving their stipendiary panel some form of vindication by sustaining the running-and-handling charge, and Fradd some small compensation by having his 11-meeting suspension slashed to six meetings.

But one can't help feeling justice was not done. Certainly not to Fradd - whose record now carries the stigma of an integrity breach - and not to any jockey riding in Hong Kong, now or in the future. Insiders say Jockey Club chairman Ronald Arculli summed up by pointing to the particulars of the charge and those haunting words 'reasonable and permissible measures'.

Changing course and going back to the inside, the chairman apparently said, was accepted by the appeals panel as both reasonable and permissible. We are bound by third-party reports because the panel does not make public its reasons for decisions.

We would have thought Fradd's ultimate course of action was reasonable and was certainly permissible. They were both options. He took one, and concedes after the fact the other would probably have brought about victory - a photo-finish defeat would have become a narrow win.

One area where the stewards were right was the slashing of the 11-meeting ban. If Eric Saint-Martin deserved eight meetings for improper riding in the Champions Mile - deliberately riding into the favourite, Joyful Winner, and perhaps costing the gelding his winning chance - then Fradd definitely deserved less if the charge was proved because he was doing his best to win the race. No malice, just an error of judgment.

However, the broader picture is still unsatisfactory.

The appeal decision effectively says it's not OK for jockeys to make an honest mistake in a race.

And a rule that was written to punish non-triers, or villainy in other guises, has been misused - and that misuse endorsed by the stewards - to bring inappropriate embarrassment and shame to the record of a past champion.