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Racing: Broken thumb threatens Culloty's Best Mate ride.

Byline: Keith Hamer

Jim Culloty looks like missing Best Mate's seasonal reappearance after breaking a bone in his thumb in a fall at Exeter.

The Irish-born jockey, who has ridden the nation's top staying chaser to a hat-trick of victories in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, faces several weeks on the sidelines.

Culloty had a plate inserted in his hand during an operation on Tuesday night and is expected to be out of action until just before Christmas.

That means trainer Henrietta Knight will need to find a jockey for her stable star, should Best Mate run in the William Hill Chase at Exeter on November 19.

Culloty sustained the injury when taking a tumble from Only Vintage at the fourth flight in the williamhill.co.uk 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle on Tuesday.

He was taken to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and was detained overnight before being allowed to go home yesterday afternoon.

His agent, Chris Broad, said: 'He's going to be out for a few weeks. It's a very big blow.

'He's had an operation on his hand and hopefully he'll be back just before Christmas.

'He will miss the ride on Best Mate if he runs at Exeter later this month - he won't be back for that. The main thing now is to get him back fit for the big Christmas meetings.

'When they operated, they had to put a plate in there because a bit of bone had come away. A horse had trod on his hand and he had an open wound. 'They were going to pin it but when they operated, they found it wasn't as straightforward as they had anticipated.'

The only other rider to have partnered Best Mate in his 19 career outings is Tony McCoy, who finished second on him to Florida Pearl in the 2001 King George VI Chase before going one better the following year when they beat Marlborough.

Talented apprentice Robert Miles has tested positive for cocaine, the Jockey Club said yesterday.

The Epsom-based rider faces the prospect of a long suspension if the finding is upheld by the Jockey Club's disciplinary panel.

Jockey Club spokesman Owen Byrne said: 'I am now in a position to confirm that a urine sample taken from Robert Miles on 29th September 2004 at Salisbury Racecourse has tested positive for benzoylecgonine, which is a diagnostic metabolite of cocaine.

'Miles will now be written to, informing him that he will be required to attend a disciplinary panel hearing. A date for this has not yet been set.'

Miles, aged 22, has ridden 35 winners this year, including the Chester Vase on Red Lancer.

He is the fourth rider to have tested positive for the drug since the Jockey Club's testing policy was introduced in October 1994.

Apprentice Philip Shea, despite claiming mitigating circumstances as the victim of a spiked drink, was given a sixmonth ban in October 2000; Dean Gallagher, having already served a six-month ban from the French authorities, was given an 18-month suspension for a second offence - this time in Britain - in November 2002; and Francis Norton was handed a fourmonth ban in December last year.

Frankie Dettori, who will be crowned champion jockey at Doncaster on Saturday, has been banned for a month after pleading guilty to careless riding in the Melbourne Cup.

The Italian was aboard Mamool in Tuesday's Australian highlight and was deemed to have moved to the outside of the field, preventing sixth-placed Distinction from moving forward.

Dettori finished seventh behind the victorious Makybe Diva, who was taking part in the race for the second year running. His ban will start at midnight on Saturday.

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Jim Culloty and Best Mate are unlikely to team up this month
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 4, 2004
Words:622
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