Rob James, the Irish amateur jockey who appeared in a video on social media jumping on the back of a dead racehorse, has had his riding licence suspended for four months (12 months with eight suspended) following a referral hearing of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board.
The video appeared three days after a photo of Gordon Elliott sitting astride a dead horse on his gallops started circulating the weekend before last. Elliott had his licence revoked for a year with six months suspended and had to pay €15,000 costs at his referral hearing last Friday.
James, who rode Milan Native to victory for Elliott at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, could not have ridden at next week’s meeting anyway because the BHA does not consider amateurs elite athletes. Like Elliott, he was found to have brought racing into disrepute and his point-to-point handler’s licence was also suspended.
At the time the jockey was quick to apologise for the video which was taken in 2016, describing his actions as “wholly inappropriate and disrespectful to a lovely five-year-old mare, who unfortunately suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while at exercise earlier that morning, April 30th, 2016”.
He also apologised to the owners of the mare, the staff who cared for her, the horseracing industry and all followers of horse racing for his actions.
“To try defending my stupidity at the time would add further insult and hurt to the many loyal people that have supported me during my career,” he said.
Since 2012, Wexford-based James has ridden 235 point-to-point winners, including 16 during the current Covid-interrupted season. The IHRB said written reasons for the decision would be given today.
Meanwhile, Julie Harrington, the new chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, said that her organisation was seeking clarification from Ireland on the conditions of the licence held by Denise ‘Sneezy’ Foster ahead of next week’s Cheltenham Festival.
Foster was appointed to hold the licence at Elliott’s Cullentra House at the weekend following the trainer’s suspension. She moved her 10 horses in soon after.
On Wednesday, Foster sent out her first winner since the new arrangement was put in place when Defi Bleu won the beginners chase at Wexford in the Gigginstown colours.
The BHA is aware of the widespread perception that Foster is being seen as merely a flag of convenience with Elliott still prominent in the background.
Harrington made the distinction that the BHA was seeking clarification on the conditions of Foster’s licence rather than the conditions of Elliott’s sanction. However, she added: “At this point we are having good discussions. We’re not envisaging getting to that point (of no Cullentra House runners).”