Callan's high-flying day turns sour after ban
Neil Callan bagged a winning double and bragging rights with the Jockey Challenge at Sha Tin on Sunday, but both he and Eddy Lai Wai-ming will miss much of the next month's racing after finding themselves on the wrong side of improper riding charges.
Callan won on Reborn To Win for Ricky Yiu Poon-fai at the halfway mark of the card then added the last winner, Rewarding Hero for John Moore, and three other second placings on Packing Whiz, Graceful Kingdom and What You Dream were enough to give him the day's riding honours with 48 Jockey Challenge points.
The pair took Callan to 17 wins, but his day soon soured when stewards opened an inquiry into a pushing incident in the middle stages of the Class Four 1,600m race, won by Jaeger Bomb, with the star witnesses Callan and local rider Lai.
The incident took place between the 1,100m mark and 1,000m mark, when Callan (Griffindor) had no runner immediately inside him but elected to maintain racing two-wide, with Lai (Golden Deer) trapped three-wide on his outside.
For 100m, Lai attempted to pressure Callan into moving inwards then, with the first turn coming up, he finally rode his horse in against Griffindor, who was unbalanced, veered in and crowded Jaeger Bomb, poking up on his inside.
In the incident, Callan was awkwardly placed for a moment as he recovered his own balance, but he then steered Griffindor back out against Golden Deer and raised his left elbow as he did, making contact with Lai.
"Clearly Lai is the first aggressor in the situation, but it is just as clear that both jockeys breached the rules by their actions. Lai has placed undue pressure on Callan and for a considerable distance and Callan's response in making contact with Lai's body with his elbow was equally unacceptable," said chief steward Kim Kelly. "In assessing the penalties, we took into account that this was the first time in his career Neil Callan has offended this rule, while jockey Lai has breached the improper riding rule in the past."
An angry Callan emerged from the hearing with a five-day suspension after pleading not guilty, and he will be out until May 1 after completing his engagements at Happy Valley on Wednesday.
Lai pleaded guilty, but his seven-day ban will see him miss a month, from April 17 to May 15.