Philip Armson, one of the conditional leading jockeys of the season with 24 winners, has been excluded from the Cheltenham Festival next month on a whip ban following the last meeting of the British Horseracing Authority’s new Whip Review Committee.
Armson, who is linked to David Pipe’s stable, has been suspended for 14 days from March 14, the opening day of the Festival, after he used the whip 10 times, three more than the limit, when riding Gwencily Berbas to a two-and-a-half-year success at the Devon National at Exeter on Friday. He was also fined £650 and ordered to spend a day’s suspension at the British Racing School for training.
Three more riders – James Turner, Alice Proctor and William Shanahan – also received bans of seven to 20 days, which will begin on March 14th, while five – including top jockeys Sam Twiston-Davies and Tom Cannon – received four-day bans which may be postponed until March 18.
Turner was found to be five times over the limit when riding Mavis Pike, a four-year-old filly, second to a bumper at Newcastle on Saturday. He was banned for 20 days and Mavis Pike was disqualified, under a new rule that allows a horse to be disqualified if a rider is four or more strokes over the limit.
Three more riders, as yet unnamed, could also receive bans later this week, which would exclude them from the final day of the Festival on March 17th.
Two were given 48 hours to provide further information after the Committee identified an additional possible offense that was not detected by the stewards on the day, while the panel also identified a possible violation by a third rider that had not been caught or referred by officials on the day of race.
Elsewhere, Constitution Hill, the long-time favorite for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, gave his galloping companions several lengths but still accelerated past them with ease on the Polytrack at Kempton Park on Tuesday morning, confirming he will be in peak form and preparation for the event on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival next month.
Constitution Hill was one of nine horses from Nicky Henderson’s stable who traveled from Lambourn for exercise on Tuesday, including Epatante, winner of the 2020 Champion Hurdle, and Marie’s Rock, who has entries in both the Mares ‘Hurdle and Stayers’ Hurdle.
A plan for the two horses crystallized in Henderson’s mind as he watched them work, and Marie’s Rock can now go up three miles on the Stayers’ on March 16th, while Epatante, who has already been beaten by Constitution Hill twice this season, changes gears. the Champion to the Mares’ Hurdle the same afternoon.
“Let’s talk about the Stayers for Marie’s Rock,” said Henderson. “Nico was very pleased with her, and Aidan (Coleman) was very pleased with Epatante. Constitution Hill seems to be in good shape, so if Epatante went to the Seas, I could see a good reason for Marie’s Rock to go up to three.
“It really gives all three a chance to win a race and that seems like a common sense plan.”