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Jeers as O'Regan rides early finish 15/1/2008
Greg Wood

Denis O'Regan became the latest jockey to stand accused of gross incompetence by the nation's punters yesterday when he rode a finish a circuit too soon in a novice chase at Fakenham, less than a week after four riders were banned for failing to stop after a false start at Southwell.

O'Regan, riding at the tight Norfolk track for the first time, partnered Harringay for Henrietta Knight in the Wetherbys Bloodstock Insurance Beginners' Chase and was happy to sit off the pace in the early stages of the three-mile contest as Cathedral Rock cut out the running.

With over a mile still to run, though, O'Regan made rapid progress towards the front, swept into the lead on what he believed to be the home turn, and then tracked left towards the winning post after jumping the first fence in the straight. As he did so, he took a quick peep over his shoulder, to see the rest of the field moving right to jump the fence in front of the stands. Harringay was pulled up shortly afterwards.

There were jeers from the grandstand as O'Regan's mount, a 5-2 chance, passed the winning post. A stewards' inquiry was inevitable, and O'Regan was duly banned for two weeks.

"He's absolutely devastated," Knight said afterwards, "but it's just one of those things and they have been telling me this has apparently happened here before.

"He did know there were three circuits as we were talking about it in the paddock before, but it's just simple human error and there's no point getting angry about it. He's paid the price anyway.

"The one thing I would say is that they really should doll off the finishing line until the final circuit, like they do at some other tracks, and then it would never happen again."

O'Regan's moment of madness follows last week's farcical scenes at Southwell, when a five-runner race was reduced to a walkover by four jockeys who failed to stop after a false start was signalled. It was confirmed yesterday that all four - Kirsty Milczarek, Pat Cosgrave, Paul Mulrennan and Andrew Elliott - have decided not to appeal against seven-day bans, and will be suspended from January 21 to 28.

O'Regan's ban may well mean that Inglis Drever, twice the winner of the World Hurdle at Cheltenham, will need a new jockey for his next race, expected to be the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on January 26.

Harringay was making her second appearance at the centre of a storm of controversy. Jockey Timmy Murphy was ruled by the Towcester stewards to have made insufficient effort on the mare in November 2005, but both Murphy and Knight were exonerated on appeal.

Tony McCoy was yesterday believed to be undergoing tests to determine whether he suffered a fractured vertebra in a fall from Arnold Layne at Warwick on Saturday, as was originally thought. McCoy himself believes that his injury may be no more than severe bruising, a diagnosis that could see him back in action well before the Festival meeting at Cheltenham in March.

Eddie Ahern is not yet free of police interest in relation to his ride at Southwell last month, when his misuse of the whip raised weals on the skin of his mount, Marsam. A spokeswoman for Nottinghamshire Police said last week that the matter would not be pursued but Detective Chief Superintendant Neil James has now asked for a meeting with officials at the British Horseracing Authority later this week to "discuss the matter in general".
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