Ruby Walsh: Horse racing’s rules need to be changed

He's tried to flag it and now he's seeing red.

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The jockeys at Sandown got away scot-free for breaking the rules – and now the rules have to change. Obviously, the colour of the flag is wrong.

They got off on a technicality earlier this week because there was a precedent set with a stop-race procedure in Perth a while back and they basically fought the same case. That’s how they got off, as does happen in the law, in the legal world, all over the globe. I think the procedure is wrong.

You could question whether Sandown needed to stop the race in the first place, but they made that decision, that’s their choice. The race (the London National) should have been void within three minutes, because that’s what the flag says. It took the stewards almost 25 minutes.

That decision should have been made straight away.

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Now, going forward, they need to change the colour of the flag. I think it’s a good idea to be able to stop the race, I just don’t think they’ve mastered the full procedure yet.

The rule is correct, but the procedure to enable them to deal with an incident like a horse laying stricken at at fence should be different. They need more than one flag man there.

Multiple guys with red flags. Race stops.

Just change the colour of the flag and we’ll move on.

I was 25 years riding and never rode in a race that was stopped. It happens so seldom. They said they didn’t see the yellow flag, but I’d say they did see it, because they bypassed the fence.

So, did they just decide they were going to bypass the fence or not? I’d say they saw it and used that as a technicality to get off their suspensions.


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The whole incident was very disappointing, but I can see it from all sides. I see why the lads didn’t stop riding and I can see why the race was declared void. I see lots of things in it.

It was disappointing for Sandown, for the jockeys, for the connections of the winner Doing Fine and the winning trainer Neill Mullholland. And let’s not forget about the stricken Houblon Des Obeaux.

For a jockey to pull up in a race is a huge decision. If you pull up and you’re not certain that the race will be declared void, you’re in big trouble afterwards.

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The yellow flag wasn’t even being waved, it was being held up.

There’s one guy holding the yellow flag, you can see the black screens in the distance, the natural reaction was to bypass the fence and then bypass the black screens.

I put it to you this way, you’re driving along down the road and there’s a guy standing in a yellow high-viz jacket with the yellow flag, what would you do?

I think that it should be just a natural reaction. A guy standing there wearing a red bib, waving a red flag means, oh, hold on, it’s red, that means caution, so I’ve to stop.

It was one whole mess. There was no winner in this.

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Paddy Power Ambassador Ruby Walsh was speaking on Paddy Power Media’s new podcast, From The Horse’s Mouth. Listen here: