Walsh to race at Wetherby despite ban threat

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TOP jockey Ruby Walsh, who has been at the heart of a week-long furore over new whip rules, has relented on his decision to boycott Britain’s ‘lesser meetings’ and will ride at Wetherby today.

Walsh indicated that he would boycott the fixture, and other minor meetings on this side of the Irish Sea, after incurring a five-day ban at Aintree last Saturday for hitting a horse nine times, one more than the permitted limit.

However, he intends to travel to Wetherby to ride Fistral Beach for champion trainer Paul Nicholls in the bet365 Handicap Chase – the jockey’s first in Britain since his outburst and a race that also heralds the comeback of Sue Smith’s 14-year-old course specialist Mister McGoldrick.

Walsh is also set to ride the Nicholls-trained Poquelin in tomorrow’s £100,000 Charlie Hall Chase, though he remains critical of the British Horseracing Authority’s new guidelines.

He knows that he will face a ban of at least 10 days if he infringes again, with the Gold Cup and Grand National-winning jockey predicting that further ‘big names’ will be suspended by the end of this weekend.

As jockeys refuse to rule out strike action, Walsh told Racing UK: “I don’t think a stage of acceptance will be reached. I think this will escalate and keep going.

“I think the rules are too severe and the penalties are too harsh. The rules were brought in to give racing a better public image but for me all they’ve done is make racing look worse.

“I’ve spoken to Paul (Nicholls) and his owners and they are pretty happy to back me in trying to pick and choose my way through this because they want me riding as well, they don’t want me banned for 10 days and whatever else.

“I’m the first high-profile jumps jockey but I’m sure by the end of the weekend there’ll be someone in the same boat as me.”

He added: “This affair has dampened my enthusiasm for racing. It is now a watered down affair.

“I was watching the racing from Haydock on Wednesday and it looked like watching a schooling race with everyone pushing away with hands and heels.”

In the Flat title race, Paul Hanagan’s lead over Yorkshire rival Silvestre de Sousa is now just four after yesterday’s action at Lingfield and Kempton.

Hanagan, the defending champion who began the day on the 157 mark, had no winners while de Sousa, who was five behind, picked up one success.