Declan Lavery wins appeal against controversial Cheltenham welfare ban

Declan Lavery, who was banned for 10 days by the stewards at last week’s Cheltenham Festival for continuing on third-placed Jerrysback in the National Hunt Chase when the officials felt his horse “had no more to give” has won his appeal against the decision at a hearing in London on Thursday.

Lavery, an Irish amateur jockey who has ridden nearly 80 winners, was one of three jockeys found in breach of the rules after a dramatic renewal of the Festival’s longest race last week. Just four of the 18 starters completed the course, while there were nine falls and one horse, Ballyward, suffered a fatal injury as a result.

The case against Lavery revolved around the moments after Jerrysback jumped the second-last fence, where Lavery’s mount jumped to his right and slowed almost to a walk before the rider got him moving again before jumping the final fence. He then stayed on up the hill to finish third after briefly being passed by the fourth horse home, Clondaw Cian.

The British Horseracing Authority argued in support of the stewards’ original decision, saying that Lavery should have pulled up his mount before jumping the last fence and that the fact that his horse had gone on to finish third was not relevant to the case as a horse’s welfare takes precedence over the requirement to obtain the best possible position for their mount.

However, an appeal panel chaired by former QC Patrick Milmo decided that subsequent events after the second-last made it clear that Jerrysback was not “exhausted” and that Lavery had been right to continue.

The original decision provoked fury from the former champion National Hunt jockey Sir Anthony McCoy, who said that he had “never seen as bad a decision in 25 years in racing”.