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Aintree jockeys relieved to escape with caution

Thirty-nine jockeys were found in breach of a rule relating to the controversial start of this year's Crabbie's Grand National - but were given no more than a caution at a British Horseracing Authority disciplinary panel hearing.

It was an outcome that raised as many questions as answers, with jockeys feeling they were able to salvage something of a minor victory by escaping without punishment. It appears, however, that it will have implications on future starting procedures of the famous race, and the relationship between riders and their governing body is not at an all-time high.

Five of the riders accused - Tom Scudamore, Aidan Coleman, Brian Hughes, Sam Twiston-Davies and Tom O'Brien - attended BHA HQ at High Holburn in London but only the first three were called to give evidence as to whether they were in breach of rule (D)44.4, in the light of rule (D)44.5, in that they "attempted to line up and/or take a position for the start before being instructed to do so by the starter".

There had been an abortive attempt to start the race, during which Simon McNeill, the assistant starter, was knocked over by several of the field as they approached the tape, and then one false start.

An initial inquiry took place afterwards, it was broken off and reconvened following the last race, but the jockeys had refused to take part. The panel was inquiring into the start, and not the aftermath.

The jockeys were represented by Graeme McPherson QC, while Professional Jockeys Association chief executive Paul Struthers, his Irish counterpart Andrew Coonan, and solicitor Rory Mac Niece were present.

Barrister Louis Weston was working on behalf of the BHA in front of the three-strong panel chaired by Timothy Charlton.

Coleman denied lining up prematurely, but said: "You're looking for a position, like everybody else. There has to be some sort of organisation. I've got to get organised before the start of the race . . . I don't understand what more we can do. When they told us to stop, we stopped. We can only go on what we hear."

Scudamore said in his history of riding in the race: "As far as I'm aware, that was the most controlled we've got to the start."

Charlton, explaining the panel's decision, said: "There was a breach, as the riders were not instructed to line up, nor do we accept that there was anything equivalent to a goggle shout. All [McNeill] did was answer a question."

After considering possible penalties, Charlton then said: "We do recognise primary problems have occurred here."

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