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Matt Chapman: Epsom stalls fiasco a total joke and why the man the PJA need is staring them in the face

IT IS quite right the Professional Jockeys Association searches for a new leader – but I’ll be surprised if they find one better than former chief Paul Struthers.

If I was part of the PJA membership, I would appoint Struthers straight away. No delay. Just get on with it.

Jockeys could do a heck of a lot worse than have Struthers in charge of the PJA

Struthers, of course, announced he was leaving the PJA in December 2021 after close to ten years in the role, citing the toll the job had taken on his family and personal life.

The news came 12 days after the conclusion of the disciplinary hearing involving Bryony Frost and Robbie Dunne after which the PJA’s leadership was criticised for its handling of the case.

A part of the fact I like Struthers to return is that he sought help after that saga, which shows all the riders he’s human. He understands suffering.

But of course away from that for ten years Struthers was outstanding as the PJA chief executive, a job that is far from easy.

He had a real passion for it. He communicated with the jockeys.

Massively importantly, he spoke to the press. He made himself available. And I love the fact having previously worked as head of communications at BHA he had inside knowledge of exactly how the mechanics took place in the corridors of racing power.

If Struthers wants this job, then in my mind there’s no doubt he is the man for it.

And at this particular moment I know for a fact he’s right on top of the absolute chaos caused by the new whip penalties.

As I have said before, it now seems doubtful that sense will ever prevail with the use of the pro cush whip.

But the penalty structure can change. It must change. And I believe under Struthers it would change.

Speaking of jockeys, Kieran O’Neill had a nightmare in Saturday’s Dash at Epsom on Live in the Moment for Alice Haynes and owners Steve and Jolene De’Lemos.

The natural front runner’s stall opened late, and then Kieran lost an iron as a result. The combination had no chance.

You can see the video footage from the jockey cam below.

The big question is did the stewards initially even notice there was an issue?

I was standing outside the Stewards’ room, where Haynes was sat. She was there for 30 minutes before being allowed inside.

The bizarre set of circumstances include her being called forward to answer why her horse performed badly.

The answer of course being that the stall of her horse did not open.

It’s very odd that the stewards even bothered to have her in if they saw what had taken place.

All in all the situation was totally unsatisfactory. And away from all the punters that would have backed Live in the Moment, what about the horse’s owner, who I can assure you had a significant bet on their charge.

Steve De’Lemos told me: “First of all we want to congratulate the owners of Navello who won the race.

“We are local to Epsom and the Dash was a dream come true race for us. It was the race we really wanted to win.

“46 per cent of the market were not given a fair chance of winning in the quickest 5f horse race in the world.

“For the stewards to come out with they think the race was not materially effected seems bizarre.

“The start is so important and where position comes from. We had no chance. You can see the rest are miles clear.

“Bizarre is the only word for it. I’m not sure they saw it at the time.

“We didn’t want a void race. No one wants that. But anyone who backed the well-backed horses in the stalls that failed to open had no chance.

“I think the stewards should have done the right thing and voided the horses whose stalls didn’t open on time. They were not afforded a fair start. It’s what is fair.

“And moving forward other owners and punters should not suffer in the same way.”

As is always the case with this kind of event, you think about the penalties BHA throw at the participants of this great sport.

While they stay silent and appear to have no kind of accountability.

Did you miss our previous article…