Mike Smith has only himself to blame for Saudi whip ban, says trainer Charlie Fellowes

Horse Racing Charlie Fellowes trainer
Charlie Fellowes: “Jockeys must take responsibility sharpish – or the whip is going to go.”
Photo: Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Neville Hopwood

By Jon Lees

GB: The trainer of renowned globetrotter Prince Of Arran believes leading US jockey Mike Smith has only himself to blame for the hefty whip ban and six figure fine he received for breaching the whip rules in the $20 million Saudi Cup.

Newmarket-based Charlie Fellowes, who has advocated disqualification of horses when a jockey exceeds whip limits, said both the nine days in bans and forfeiture of an estimated $210,000 in prize-money Smith received after he rode Midnight Bisou into second place were “spot on”.

Fellowes also warned that unless jockeys take responsibility for their actions, the whip will be outlawed from the sport.

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US Hall of Famer Smith has claimed he was the victim of “the biggest penalty against a jockey in the history of horse racing” after he was found to have used his whip 14 times,  exceeding the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia’s ten stroke limit, and had hit the mare with no regard to the horse’s stride.

He was fined 60 per cent share of the jockey’s prize-money cut from the world’s richest horse race for the frequency of the strikes. 

Smith has appealed against the penalties as well as an additional two day ban he collected for failing to weigh in after a previous race. 

Irad Ortiz, who was banned for eight days for excessive whip use in a race on Friday and picked up another two days after the Saudi Cup, losing ten per cent of his cut of the fourth place prize-money secured on Mucho Gusto, has also appealed. 

They are both free to continue riding until the appeal has been held.

Fellowes attended Saudi Cup night where he saddled Prince Of Arran to finished third in the $2.5 million Longines Turf Handicap.

On his blog, Fellowes wrote: “Mike Smith wow! He was fined $210,000 for overuse of the whip and is still complaining about it – I literally can’t believe I am still reading about it.

“Every jockey knows the rules and again another jockey breaks those rules and is then flabbergasted when they are punished even though the rules are crystal clear.”

Fellowes put the blame for continuing whip controversies firmly on the shoulders of the riders.

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He said: “We have a situation in global racing where the whip is under so much scrutiny and there is only one person to blame for that – the jockeys – because it’s them who continue to break the rules. If they didn’t break them we wouldn’t have such problems regarding the stick and this is just another massive high-profile example of this.

“The jockeys have to take responsibility sharpish, otherwise the whip is going to go and it will be sooner than they realise. They need to sort themselves out.

“When you read the quotes, he asks: ‘What is excessive?’ It is in the rule book as ten, so you count to ten and when you get there you put the stick down. It really is that simple. Problem is it was a $20 million race so there is so much at stake prize-money wise that he was happy to break the rules to try and win the race.

Fellowes continued: “The punishment was quite right, everyone knows my feelings on the matter that a jockey who breaks the rules the horse should not keep the race, but I think a $210,000 fine is spot on. He broke the rules and should have to pay the price. 

“It’s not like the rules are sprung on the jockeys after the race, they know every time they sit on a horse how many times they are allowed to use the whip – it is very clear. He knew the consequences of his actions – so I’m afraid he only has one person to blame.”

Prince Of Arran, meanwhile, is set to go to on to the Dubai Gold Cup, with Royal Ascot the primary target of the European summer.

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