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Grand National start hearing expected imminently

ESPN staff
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Winning jockey Leighton Aspell said the start of a Grand National race is a very high-pressure environment © Getty Images
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The British Horseracing Authority has announced it will be a "couple of days" before a date for the referral hearing into the start of the 2014 Grand National will be announced.

The hearing was passed to the BHA after the 39 jockeys involved in the false start of Saturday's feature race at Aintree chose not to attend a stewards' inquiry, after an initial hearing had been adjourned for the matter to be considered.

The race starter had reported that riders had breached rules by forming a line before the official start time of 4.15pm, despite the assistant starter, who was positioned at the front of the field, declaring it was not yet time for the field to race.

Scudamore slams 'archaic' system

  • Former champion jockey Peter Scudamore, who watched his son Tom steer The Package to a 12th place finish in Aintree's big race, has branded the Grand National's starting process as "not fit for purpose."
  • Scudamore Sr told BBC Radio 5Live's SportsWeek: "We're in 2014 and have not got a system that works. It's depressing. I don't blame the starters, the starters' assistants or the jockeys. We have an archaic system that is not fit for purpose.
  • "There was confusion and the jockeys felt slightly aggrieved the inquiry was not held straight after the race. They did attend the first inquiry but were sent out because they did not have enough time to conclude it.
  • "They were told that some could go because they had two-day suspensions anyway. The jockeys thought that, since it had been decided to ban them and their arguments had not been listened to, what was the point of going back in?"

As a result of the line forming, assistant starter Simon McNeill was knocked down by one of the runners but did not suffer serious injury. However, the stewards' initial report said the riders had compromised the welfare of an official.

Brendan Powell was the only rider out of the field of 40 not to be involved in the inquiry because his mount Battle Group refused to approach the start.

Most of the riders involved were in attendance for the first inquiry with 18-time champion jockey AP McCoy acting as their spokesman. The meeting was adjourned until after the day's final race but, despite not being given permission to leave the course, all of the 39 riders refused to attend when recalled - it is reported they had learned that they each faced two-day riding bans.

"There has been no chance to arrange a date yet. I would think it would take a couple of days to arrange it," BHA media manager Robin Mounsey said. "It's going to be slightly complicated because the jockeys will need to work out between them who's coming, how many of them are coming and when it is suitable for those who want to come to attend. It might take a bit of time to get a suitable date.

"There is very little to add now before the inquiry is heard at High Holborn by the disciplinary panel. This process will allow all involved the opportunity to review the chain of events and consider all relevant factors, hopefully in a more constructive environment. The hearing will consider the start and the events which unfolded during and after the stewards' inquiry."

Leighton Aspell won the race on board 25/1 shot Pineau De Rea and stated that a split second is all it takes to hinder the start of a Grand National race.

Aspell told At The Races: "It's a very, very high pressure situation. Everybody is geed up, they've got their plans and their instructions and it's a very fine line. I promise you, we're talking fractions of a second away from it [the start] being absolutely perfect. I think the second time it was almost perfect again, but the tape caught one of the horses.

"No jockey wanted this to happen. We all got briefed and we all wanted to get off to a good start and get off well. It's very tight down there at the start, we're getting instructions left, right and centre. Unfortunately we had a couple of incidents, the stewards had their say and we put our points across. Hopefully it can get resolved as soon as possible."

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