For violating the whip, Sean Bowen received an 18-day suspension


For violating the whip, Sean Bowen received an 18-day suspension.

After receiving an 18-day totting-up ban on Thursday from racing’s disciplinary panel, Sean Bowen will miss two Saturdays in a row, including Betfair Hurdle day at Newbury.

The jockey, who trails only Brian Hughes by winners ridden this jumps season, will only serve 12 days if he doesn’t break the whip again before April 13.

When Bowen used his whip three times quickly on the approach to the final fence during his winning ride on Mackelduff at Wetherby a fortnight ago, the hearing was sparked. In just six months, it was his fifth breach.

The BHA’s argument that the jockey had not given his mount enough time to respond was accepted by the panel. It rejected Bowen’s argument that he had to use his whip to get the horse to focus after a series of poorer-quality jumps.

“Four-out was steady, three-out was sloppy,” Bowen told the panel. “I felt I had to do something more than just hands and heels. The horse had more to give.”

After the third fence, he once used his whip behind the saddle, but he didn’t get the response he wanted. “Two-out was the sloppiest of the three jumps.

“He pecked on landing and almost tripped himself up, purely out of concentration issues. He wasn’t tired. It was him being sloppy and lack of concentration.

“He could easily have tripped himself up over the last. He really had to concentrate because if he got that wrong, it was going to hurt. He then jumped the last better than any of the previous three.”

However, the panel was not convinced that Bowen’s use of the whip was primarily intended to focus Mackelduff on clearing the final fence. “We find there was a focus to win the race and not as a safety issue,” said the chairman, James O’Mahony. “There was nothing so concerning about the jumping.”

A totting-up ban was inevitable as a result of that decision. Bowen offered a defense of mitigation by citing the large number of rides he had taken in the preceding six months.

“This is a jockey who uses his whip sparingly,” said his solicitor, Rory Mac Neice. “He can and does go very long periods with no infringement at all.”

Mac Neice made the observation that none of Bowen’s most recent infractions involved excessive use; rather, three of them involved whip use in the wrong place. He explained that the jockey had been trying to get used to using the whip backhand in anticipation of the forehand ban, which has since been lifted, but that he had found it difficult because he was one of the smaller jockeys in the jumps weighing room.

In remarks made last week to the Racing Post, Bowen made this point: “I’ve been punished for something I’ve been trying to get the hang of, which it turns out I never needed to do. I was like a lot of jockeys in that we found we couldn’t use the whip in the right place using the backhand only.”

O’Mahony, on the other hand, stated that the panel was concerned because Bowen had recently broken the law by using the whip with too much force. He directed Bowen to spend one day of his suspension at the British Racing School, where he would receive instruction on how to use the whip correctly.

The suspension of Bowen will begin at the end of the following week and last from February 3 to February 14.


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