By Jon Lees
Australia: Top jockeys Jamie Kah and Ben Melham will miss the entire Melbourne Spring Carnival after they were suspended for three months for breaching Victoria’s strict COVID-19 protocols.
They were banned along with riders Ethan Brown and apprentice Celine Gaudray after pleading guilty to charges that they were present at an Airbnb after 9pm with ‘non-licensed individuals’.
The suspensions, which began at midnight on August 26, will expire at midnight on November 25, costing the riders any involvement in the Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup and other lucrative races during October and November.
Kah, the reigning metropolitain champion in Melbourne, immediately apologised, saying she had “deserved” her punishment.
In a message posted on Twitter she said: “I want to apologise for my recent behaviour in breaching the government and racing COVID rules.
“I am deeply embarrassed and disappointed with myself. There is no excuse for what I have done and I have let myself down, my family and friends, the racing industry and all Victorians who are doing the right thing in this lockdown.
“I deserve the penalty handed down by the stewards and will take time to reflect on my actions and its impact on so many people.”
The inquiry took into account the quartet’s guilty pleas, the fact it was their first offence of this nature, the impact of having to miss so many key races and their expressions of remorse.
However the stewards took the view that they needed to impose a penalty that was “sufficient enough to deter others from breaching the COVID-19 Protocols”.
“The penalty must also be seen to publicly address the seriousness of the offending and make clear that compliance with the COVID-19 Protocols is non-negotiable,” the stewards’ notice said.
The jockeys, who have a right of appeal, must still fulfil a stand down order of 14 days from all licensed premises and provide negative COVID-19 tests over that period. They will be permitted to participate in trackwork, jump-outs and official trials once the 14 day stand down order from the Chief Medical Officer concludes on 9 September 2021.
• Visit the Racing Victoria website