Jockey Ben Thompson, who has enjoyed a highly successful season since relocating to Queensland, has had his momentum brought to a resounding halt by the decision of the Victorian Racing Tribunal to suspend him for four months after finding him guilty on two charges relating back to an investigation that was opened in May 2020.
The charges essentially related to an alleged attempt to conceal the identity of the horse No Frontiers ahead of her win at Bairnsdale on May 3, 2020. Stewards opened the relevant inquiry after that win, which was on debut.
Prior to that race, Thompson has ridden No Frontiers in a jump-out at Cranbourne with the filly being listed for the jump-out by trainer Francis Finnegan under the name of Getemhel.
According to Racenet, ‘Racing Victoria stewards quizzed Thompson on May 3, the day of No Frontier’s maiden victory, about the identity of the horse he rode in the jump-out and he informed them it was Getemhel.’
So it was that false and/or misleading evidence formed the basis of Charge 1 laid against Thompson.
Stewards also alleged that Thompson had, ‘sometime between 3 and 11 May 2020, deleted from his mobile phone, messages and/or call records between himself and (trainer) Mr Finnegan and/or himself and another person that were or could have been relevant to the Inquiry.’
Thus, misconduct and/or improper conduct detrimental to the interests of racing formed the basis of Charge 2 laid against Thompson
In his defence, again as detailed in the Racing.com report, Thompson’s legal team put forward the argument that, ‘Thompson had not been told by Finnegan he was riding No Frontiers in the jump-out and it was only two days after through his own research that Thompson found the true identity of his mount,’ and that, ‘there’s obvious contrition and regret from his evidence on May 11 as to what happened on May 3.’
Thompson ultimately pleaded guilty to the charges.
Racing Victoria stewards asked for a three-month penalty on each charge to be served cumulatively (six month in total), but Judge John Bowman went with a two month penalty on each charge to be served cumulatively for a total of a four month suspension.
Judge Bowman took into account Thompson’s guilty plea and his good record as a jockey of seven years’ experience in handing down this ruling.
Also, in his summation, Judge Bowman underlined the serious nature of the offences and the critical need for the industry to maintain a level playing field.
Finnegan is yet to appear before the Victorian Racing Tribunal. He will face five charges on a date still to be decided.