Ruby Walsh: George Rooke’s 14-day riding ban is excessive – we all make mistakes

I once jumped an extra fence at Stratford but it was a genuine mistake.



Ruby Walsh believes George Rooke’s 14-day riding ban following a mistake at Wolverhampton last Friday is excessive and the 19-year-old should not receive a similar punishment to jockeys who deliberately commit deceitful acts.

Rooke has been suspended for riding a finish a circuit too early while on board Sophar Sogood over an extended two miles in the Download The At The Races App Handicap and will be out of action from October 3 to October 17.

Speaking on the latest episode of Paddy Power’s now twice-weekly From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, Ruby feels this sanction for a genuine error is too harsh while our main man recounted a time when he also suffered a brain fade which led to a spell on the sidelines.

I think this is a completely different thing to jockeys who receive bans for ‘dangerous riding’. I would have straight away referred George Rook’s case to the BHA (British Horseracing Authority), examined all angles of any suspicion of corruption and then dealt with it for the mistake that it was.

You have to have those penalties so guys can’t take the law into their own hands, but if you examine it and see that there is no deceit, then it’s a genuine mistake.

I never got the distance of a race wrong, but I did jump the water jump at Stratford one day instead of going around it. I pulled out going to the last fence under the stands rail, had my eyes on the last fence and when the horse took off I remember putting my head down and switching my whip from my right hand to my left to get him as close to the outside running rail as I could to deliver my challenge.

I had simply forgotten that we had to go left and go around the water jump, so I rode my horse out over the water jump without looking where I was going. I therefore got disqualified and got a 21-day ban for it. It was a genuine mistake, and I was concentrating on winning.

George Rooke

I was a length down and trying to get to the horse in front. I went away from him to try and deliver my challenge, but my horse began to slow down so I started trying even harder. My horse was slowing down because he was looking at the water jump with rails in front of it, wondering what exactly I was doing sending him that way.

In fairness to the horse, he was good and clever and jumped it. I crossed the line in second but I was obviously disqualified.

The suspension cost me a couple of big days in France. It was a huge suspension for the crime I had committed. And I think if you can get 21 days, or 14 days, for a genuine mistake, how does a lesser ban for a deliberate action really sit? It doesn’t sit with me.

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Guys who are suspended for running and riding inquiries are getting 21 days or 28 days for a deliberate, deceitful action, how does a guy who makes a genuine mistake get a equivalent ban? I don’t believe stewards, or starters, or judges, or anybody else in horse racing get the equivalent bans for mistakes that jockeys get. And I think it’s quite easy to prove that was a mistake from George.

The embarrassment that I felt at Stratford, even walking back into the parade ring… I would have loved to have ridden all round the racecourse, jumped off into the River Avon and swum out of there. The embarrassment of it – the fact the you have done something so stupid is harsh enough.

You can’t expect stewards on the day to have enough information to deal with that but there is enough between background checks with bookmakers, accounts etc that it would be so easy to see if there was deceit or not and then deal with it accordingly.

Stratford Racecourse

I’ve seen the whole field at Tranmore do two laps instead of three. There is an air of confusion if two go for home. You think ‘maybe we are finishing’. You can’t ring the lads in the stand to ask ‘are we finishing?’. You then start covering your arse, getting a bit closer in case we are finishing. You start second-guessing each other.

Mistakes happen. Once it is a mistake, and not a genuine deceitful act, I don’t think the two should be treated the same.

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What do you think?