Riders love a duel, but the lines are blurred

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 February, 2009, 12:00am

It is hard to imagine anything less than an overdeveloped competitive streak in the senior jockeys who make it to the big stage in Hong Kong, and when it comes to giving as good as they get, they'll mix it up with the best.

So there would be few jockeys here who gained anything but real encouragement to roll the dice after what happened in the early stages of the Chairman's Sprint Prize on the weekend.

Others, though, might drop a well-worn consistency card on the stipendiary stewards' table.

Darren Beadman (River Jordan) saw the opportunity to make life difficult for Olivier Doleuze on Sacred Kingdom and did it - angling sharply across in front of the favourite and physically pushing him into a snug space behind Yellow Diamond.

It was a clear and intentional move by Beadman, as hard and competitive a rival in such situations as any jockey is likely to bump into.

Yet when Zac Purton used his mount, Sambuoyant, to ease Eric Saint-Martin wider on the track in a race at Sha Tin in November, a careless riding ban followed.

It was argued in this column then that the charge was wrong - there was nothing careless about it. Purton intended to do what he did and he did it with as much safety as such a manoeuvre could entail. If any charge should have ensued, careless riding was not it. Saint-Martin, another extremely tough competitor, didn't much like being moved aside but rest assured he would have done the same if the boot was on the other foot.

The same is true of Doleuze and Beadman - both play a tough, competitive line and get away with what they can and it's why they are at the top of their trade.

Beadman saw the chance to upset the favourite and took it. The conclusion from the stewards was that competitive riding was acceptable but Beadman should ensure he does not cross the line.

The problem with that response is that the line appears to move around a fair bit and both the Purton and Beadman conclusions cannot simultaneously be correct or even reasonable.

To suggest that the stewards currently don't have the respect of the riders is akin to suggesting basketballer Yao Ming is a big lad, and it is these types of incidents that bring it about. And the conclusion on Sunday might be just the incentive that other riders need to take a chance in the future.

We have spoken to quite a few of the senior riders since Sunday's race and from more than one the response was along these lines: 'As long as we know what Darren did is all right - if that's the line, we'd all like to be doing that.'