Dave Allan has seen champion jockey Richard Hughes banned for 50 days and his friend Martin Dwyer face the possibility of an eight-month suspension, but he has no doubts he will race again in India this winter if he is given the chance.
The 31-year-old, who rides the aptly-named Confessional in the feature Coral Sprint Trophy for leading Ryedale trainer Tim Easterby in today’s season-ending fixture at York, believes he has become a better jockey after spending the past five winters riding in the cricket-mad country.
He won India’s Derby two years ago on Moonlight Romance – he has never come close to getting a mount in Epsom’s showpiece – and says the frenetic nature of the racing has honed his sharpness.
“Your decision-making has to be quicker than split-second or you’ve had it,” says Allan.
While the Malton-based rider wants to return to India, the matter is out of his hands after the British Horseracing Authority took the unprecedented decision not to enforce the 56-day suspension that was given to Dwyer, the 2006 Epsom Derby winner, on his second appeal against an eight-month ban for his ride on the filly Ice Age in Mumbai in February.
A head-on video showed Ice Age drift towards the rail in the closing stages, during which time Dwyer’s mount bumped the runner-up and caused the jockey to snatch up his mount.
Royal Western Indian Turf Club stewards called an inquiry and announced the horse was to be deemed a non-starter, with all bets refunded.
Dwyer maintained that he was innocent of any wrong-doing, and that his mount had not moved correctly and suffered a nosebleed during the race.
He was “pleased and relieved” at this stressful eight-month saga coming to an end this week, but India’s authorities may now refuse to licence British jockeys like Allan. They argue that the BHA upheld the Hughes ban in 2012 and that reciprocal arrangements are now redundant.
Ironically Allan, who served his riding apprenticeship with Injured Jockeys’ Fund supremo Jack Berry before joining Easterby’s Great Habton yard and enjoying great success on horses like sprinter Hamish McGonagall, only began his winter pilgrimage to India after Dwyer informed him of an opening.
“Martin’s the one who got me a job over there with a trainer in Bangalore,” he told the Yorkshire Post.
“Racing wouldn’t be the same class but it is competitive. The Indian Derby on Moonlight Romance was special. It was a spare ride after Richard Hughes opted for another horse and there were 40,000 people there.”
This was a race in which Allan, a power-packed rider, got the better of a four-way dash to the line on the track at Mahakaxmi.
The scene of Dwyer’s ‘crime’, it certainly lacks the splendour of York’s Knavesmire.
“When you first get there, the intensity can be a bit daunting,” explained Allan.
“If you ride a favourite and it gets beat, they will abuse you – nasty stuff that you usually can’t understand, but still frightening. If you win, you are a hero.
“The man giving you dog’s abuse can be the man saying, ‘well done’ one race later, they’re like that. But you can make decent money – far more than on the all-weather here during the winter, and it gets you sharp for the start of the turf season.
“Some of the Indian jockeys ride like they drive cars, but there are some good jockeys too. It’s different. The races are a bit more erratic – you need your wits about you – but it teaches you how to handle pressure.
“The ironic thing is I’ve probably had more trouble with the stewards here than in India. I wouldn’t be worried about going back. I’m seeing my trainer next week, but I’m not sure whether the authorities will allow it. The biggest problem is boredom, unless you play golf; that’s the hardest part.”
As for this year, one of Allan’s undoubted highlights was Hamish McGonagall finishing a gutsy fourth to the unheralded Jwala in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at the Ebor festival.
Allan has ridden the horse to all 10 of the gutsy sprinter’s wins. His disappointment is that Hamish McGonagall missed last weekend’s Prix de l’Abbaye after sustaining a knock in the Nunthorpe.
That said, he hopes Confessional can run with credit in today’s six-furlong feature. “It depends what kind of mood he is in. He is a bit quirky,” added Allan who won yesterday’s York maiden on Mayfield Boy for York trainer Mel Brittain.
“He won the Be Friendly Handicap, named after Sir Peter O’Sullevan’s great champion, at Haydock and has a chance on his day. York and Haydock are the tracks that bring out the best in him.”
Richard Fahey – who still has an outside chance of overhauling Nawton’s David O’Meara and becoming York’s leading trainer for an eighth successive year – is hoping Baccarat can supply him with a third Coral Sprint Trophy victory in the last six years.
Dusky Queen’s victory in yesterday’s finale for Samantha Bell leaves Fahey tied with William Haggas on the eight-winner mark, two behind the pacesetting David O’Meara.
The worry is that Sir Robert Ogden’s four-year-old was disappointing in the Ayr Gold Cup last month after coming to prominence when winning the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon.
Veteran Sheriff Hutton trainer Mick Easterby – uncle to the aforementioned Tim – hopes to have one final winner at his local track before he retires with Ayr Silver Cup winner Ancient Cross.
Part-owner Ritchie Fiddes said: “Mick loves York so it would be great to send him off with one last big win.
“This horse cost not very much and he’s responsible for getting me into racing and I’ve definitely caught the bug.”
Easterby’s final runner will be Barren Brook in the finale for jockey Graham Gibbons, who won yesterday’s opener on Ed McMahon’s Aeolus. He looks a promising horse to follow.
Take Cover won well for David Probert, who has developed a useful alliance with South Yorkshire trainer David Griffiths, a former riding tutor at Doncaster’s North Racing College.
City Zen gave North Yorkshire handler Tony Coyle his first winner on Knavesmire while Graphic’s win in the feature under Ryan Moore was an eighth success at the track in 2013 for Skipton-born William Haggas, son-in-law to Lester Piggott.
“He’s just in a good vein of form at the moment. He looks well and his skin’s good. That’s why we keep running him,” said delighted Haggas.