Jockeys’ protest hits Thursday races
In a sudden development, members of the Jockeys’ Association of India (JAI) have declined rides on the upcoming Thursday (March 9) card at the Mahalaxmi racecourse. The Thursday card, which is framed to honour the print and online media covering the sport of racing, will now have all horses ridden by apprentice riders. Apprentice riders are licensed by the race club as trainees, and are barred from joining any union like the JAI.
The flashpoint was a decision of the race club stewards to suspend jockey R Ajinkya for six months for his ride astride a horse named Jerusalem who lost last month. The official order announcing the punishment had listed six reasons, and it was point number six that has emerged as the bone of contention between the race club and the JAI, which reads thus: “You were given the opportunity to prove your innocence by handing over your mobile phone, call records and bank statement for further nvestigation. However, you refused to do so, thereby not helping the investigation reach its logical conclusion.”
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“Yes, that’s true. This is an old matter and the club had assured us that a jockey will not be victimised if he chooses not to comply,” senior jockey PS Chouhan, president of the JAI, confirmed to mid-day.
“But now our members [jockeys] feel that the mention of point number six in the order sends a clear message that a professional may be punished for non-compliance, despite the earlier assurance to the contrary. This has understandably made jockeys insecure and they’ve decided not to accept rides until the matter is cleared,” added Chouhan, going on to explain that during the Pune season last year, jockeys had decided to protest against the practice of the stipendiary stewards asking them to submit mobile phones, call detail records (CDRs) and bank statements for investigation purpose. “We had very strong objections and the matter came to a boil in Pune when we said we’ll be glad to submit all that to the police or any other authority of the law, but not to the club officials,” added Chouhan.
The race club, in a press note issued last evening, offered “no comment” as the said order is under appeal, but hoped for an amicable settlement at the earliest.
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