Fracas at Mahalaxmi racecourse as jockey faces punters' wrath

Feb 18, 2013, 09:47 IST | Prakash Gosavi

Irate punters stormed into the jockeys' weighting room area immediately after the last race yesterday to protest against English jockey Martin Dwyer's handling of Ice Age, the raging hot favourite who lost the upper division of the Amateurs' Riders Club Trophy in a close finish involving three horses

The race was won by Prize Fighter, a 30/1 rank outsider, who finished a short-head ahead of another 20/1 long shot Always Smile, with favourite Ice Age a further short head away.

An angry mob of nearly 100 punters who felt the jockey had hooked the horse, marched into the paddock area, some of them crowding the weighing room, baying for the English jockey’s blood.

Policemen try to restore order at the Mahalaxmi racecourse. Pic/Satyajit Desai

Dwyer was lucky to somehow escape the protesters’ attention when he surreptitiously entered the weighing room from a small, side gate. The authorities sought help from police, who thankfully arrived soon, but angry protesters were in no mood to vacate the area, and were seen demanding the race to be declared ‘null and void’, in effect cancelling all bets and returning the punters’ money.

The stewards too were not happy with Dwyer’s ride, and immediately swung into action, ordering an inquiry into the running of the race. “Yes, prima facie, we felt the jockey (Dwyer) had not given a fair ride to the horse,” club chairman KN Dhunjibhoy told MiD DAY later in the evening.

“So under rule 31 (c), we decided to treat Ice Age as a non-starter, refunding all bets on that horse, and have directed the stipendiary stewards to conduct a detailed inquiry into the affair,” he added.

Dhunjibhoy also revealed the jockey was questioned and his statement was recorded. “Since it was pointed out that the horse also broke a blood vessel we have asked the chief veterinary officer to thoroughly check the horse in question and submit a detailed report,” Dhunjibhoy said.

This is the second such case in recent times when violent public protests were made against a jockey’s ride. The earlier case involved apprentice jockey Tushar Nemane during the 2012 Pune season when he rode a horse named Celsius to lose. Nemane later owned up and is presently under suspension.

While in the Celsius’ case, the entire race was declared null and void, the stewards yesterday chose to take a different course of action by refunding bets only on the losing favourite who was allegedly not given a fair ride. When asked about it, Dhunjibhoy said, “The Celsius case involved more than one horse who were not allowed to run on merit, whereas here all other horses, including winner Prize Fighter, have run their true race, so we decided to let the winner keep the race.” 

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