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Boycott talks fail as riders considerfurther action at HQ.

Byline: Graham Green


LAST-ditch talks aimed at averting a highly damaging jockeys' strike on Sunday failed yesterday - as speculation emerged of a second protest later this month at Newmarket.

A fresh offer from the Jockey Club in an appeal to riders to call off Sunday's boycott at Sandown was met with a short retort from campaign leader Philip Robinson: "There is no deal."

Exasperation at Portman Square reached such heights that senior steward Julian Richmond-Watson talked of retaliatory legal action against the rebellious jockeys; of "letting the law decide whether what we are trying to do is unlawful".

However, valets added their support to a boycott as the row over mobile phone restrictions escalates, with Sandown chosen as it falls under the banner of Racecourse Holdings Trust, a subsidiary of the Jockey Club.

Management at the Esher track will assess whether to cancel racing after this morning's deadline for declarations, but last night not a single horse among 244 entries had been jocked up and Robinson was adamant the majority of trainers with entries would not be

declaring. A second boycott date of September 23, when one of three meetings is at Newmarket, was thought to have been discussed by jockeys.

The Jockey Club's new offer allowed riders to retain possession of their phones - dispensing with the requirement to keep them in a pigeon hole in a designated phone-zone - and would also allow trainers to communicate with riders via the stable representative's mobile in the phone-zone. The

11th-hour concessions, wrung out during a secret meeting in London, failed to impress Robinson.

"The Jockey Club is not listening," he said. "We have told them what we want and that's it. We have said we would be quite happy to exist by rules that we do not use phones outside the phone-zone.

"There's no point having phones, wherever they are, if they are not turned on. It's pointless. The whole idea is that when someone is trying to call us, we know and can answer it. It's

vital. It's a waste of time us having a phone if we can't have it switched on."

Robinson added: "The situation is just as you were. I will be having a

holiday on Sunday and so will the

other lads."

Yesterday's talks at a hotel close to Portman Square were attended in the role of peacebroker by barrister Graham McPherson, who is associated with the National Trainers' Federation.

Also present were Michael Caulfield, outgoing chief executive of the Jockeys' Association, his successor John Blake and three Jockey Club directors - Christopher Foster, Malcolm Wallace and John Maxse. Solicitor Martin Cruddace, who has 110 clients since being recruited by Robinson, kept in touch by phone.

A deal was put to jockeys at around 3.30pm. By around 4.30pm had come the rejection, a speed of turnaround that totally infuriated Club officials.

"I really don't see what is served by a strike," said Maxse. "It's a futile and pointless gesture."

The Club had thought a trial run of the new offer until the end of the year might persuade some movement from riders.

Maxse added: "My hope is that they will think about it, there is no deadline."

Dave Currie, a valet for 37 years, confirmed he and his colleagues will not be working at Sandown.

"We are 100 per cent behind them [the jockeys]", said Currie. "We are in the same position as the jockeys. We feel we are all part of the same team and we should all stick together."

In contrast, the BHB rushed out a statement yesterday evening commending the Jockey Club negotiators.

Greg Nichols, the BHB's chief executive, said: "The integrity of our sport is of paramount importance.

"We therefore urge jockeys to see the commonsense of this latest offer, and consider it fully before any further harmful action is embarked upon.

"The threat to Sandown's meeting on Sunday should be averted at all cost. Trainers should declare runners for the fixture and nominate their jockeys as is the norm."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Sep 12, 2003
Previous Article:Football: England backers forced to sweat.
Next Article:The Jockey Club issues an open letter to racing on mobile phones row.

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