Smiths standing by banned Cook

JUMP jockey Danny Cook says his positive test for cocaine was “a catastrophic error of judgment” after he was banned from race-riding for six months.

Jockey Danny Cook in the parade ring at the First February meeting, Catterick Races. ( Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

The suspension – passed down by the British Horseracing Authority yesterday – means the 31-year-old will be out of action until August.

He had already accrued a career-best tally of 31 winners in 2014-15, predominantly for Yorkshire trainers Sue Smith and Brian Ellison, when a random urine sample at Musselburgh on February 1 subsequently proved positive.

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However, both trainers have said they will stand by North Yorkshire-based Cook, who stopped riding a month ago when the test result was confirmed.

“We’re standing by him, that’s for sure,” said Smith’s husband Harvey, the former show-jumper. “He’s done a month and will be back for August. At least he knows what is going on. We shall not be bypassing him. He’s just been foolish.”

Malton trainer Ellison told The Yorkshire Post that he would still be using Cook if his owners wanted the rider’s services.

Despite’s Cook’s remorse, the BHA’s disciplinary panel said that it was not in a position to show leniency because the rider took an illegal Class A drug on the evening prior to riding in six races, and that this was “a serious matter”.

Speaking after the hearing, Cook’s solicitor, Rory Mac Neice, said: “Danny made what he describes as a catastrophic error of judgment in taking cocaine when on a rare night out earlier this year.

“On being informed by the BHA of the positive test, he immediately indicated that he did not want the B sample tested, that he accepted the finding, and that he was responsible for his actions.

“He has been given a six-month suspension... and Danny entirely accepts that penalty. Danny has been grateful for the many positive messages of support that he has received, including from people he has ridden for, and he hopes that he might be able to repay that support on his return from the suspension.

“Danny wants to make it clear that doing what he did, while entirely out of character for him, is a serious matter. He entirely accepts the outcome of the hearing. The BHA takes these matters seriously and are right to do so.”

Former Grand National-winning rider Jason Maguire appears set to miss this year’s renewal of the Aintree spectacular on Saturday, April 11.

Maguire, who famously struck for his boss Donald McCain on Ballabriggs in 2011, has not recovered from back injuries that he sustained at Catterick last month.

“The first scan I had after the fall suggested that I had a slipped disc and I may have damaged one of my vertebrae, which is not good news at all,” he said. “I’m having a second opinion on it next week, but the initial signs are not good. It’s fair to say luck is not on my side at the minute.”

Maguire missed last year’s National when a bad fall on the eve of the Cheltenham Festival left him with life-threatening liver and internal injuries.

Aintree specialist Big Fella Thanks is set to contest the Crabbie’s Fox Hunters Chase next month.

Trainer Tom George believes the 13-year-old is as good as he has ever been in his career and is expecting a big run from the veteran.

Big Fella Thanks, previously trained with Ferdy Murphy at West Witton, is now going down the hunter chase route in what will be his eighth race over the famous fences.

He has competed in four Grand Nationals, posting a best-placed fourth in 2010. “He’s in the form of his life, the old boy,” said George.

Top Flat jockey Andrea Atzeni says Doncaster’s Racing Post Trophy winner Elm Park might spring a surprise in the first Classic of 2015.

Though Andrew Balding’s colt is a leading contender for the Epsom Derby, Atzeni says the horse could have sufficient speed for the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 2. “He has more speed than people think, he’s got a high cruising speed,” said the rider. “He’ll stay further than a mile no problem this year so he could also be a Derby contender.”