David Morgan

Chief Journalist


De Sousa wants rules consistency across borders

The Brazilian was handed another reminder on Sunday as to how ‘careless’ British habits get punished in Hong Kong.

Silvestre de Sousa will make adjustments to his approach after he picked up his second careless riding suspension of the Hong Kong season at Sha Tin on Sunday, but the three-time British champion wants racing administrators to do more to bring about harmonisation of rules and their interpretation across borders.

The Brazilian’s latest infraction, aboard the victorious Mr Ascendency at the season’s third fixture, saw the Hong Kong stewards hand him a two-day suspension. That slap came on top of the three days he was given for his ‘careless’ winning ride on Lucky Sweynesse at the opening day meeting a week earlier.      

De Sousa pleaded guilty to the latest charge after Mr Ascendency drifted right, under a typically strong right-hand drive – the jockey had already switched his whip from his left and gave a firm pull on the left rein – when advancing down the home straight. The Ricky Yiu-trained gelding moved from centre track to four widths off the rail and in doing so caused fourth-placed Master Hero’s jockey Angus Chung to pause riding for a brief moment.   


He believes the British stewards’ interpretation of careless riding would not have resulted in a two-day suspension.  

“I thought they’d caution me because the other jockey didn’t really stop riding, he just kind of half-anticipated what was going to happen, but they opened the book and that’s the rules, so that’s what they gave me,” said De Sousa.

“I’m not saying that I’ve been done harshly. I can see my fault and I take it on the chin.”

The disparity between jurisdictions is something he would like to see fixed, though, and not necessarily along British lines.

BHA (British Horseracing Authority) guidelines on careless riding stipulate that a caution would be handed out for what it deems ‘Minimal interference, due to misjudgement or inattention, which results in the sufferer having to take a slight check or horse being shifted slightly off its line.’


Silvestre De Sousa outpoints Oisin Murphy in a tight finish at Newbury. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

The two-to-four-day range in Britain would be for ‘Increased interference, due to misjudgement, inattention or failing to take corrective action, which results in the sufferer having to take a check or the horse being shifted notably off its line.’

But in Hong Kong, with massive turnover race-to-race, within a handicap system that has horses racing tightly – at times hair-raisingly close together – the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s racing stewards, led by Kim Kelly, are renowned for maintaining a firm approach with any rider who allows their mount to drift off a line.

“I thought I was doing everything in my power to keep my horse in a straight line but my horse drifted and I should have done more to make sure the horse didn’t do that,” De Sousa continued.

“The stewards are strict here in Hong Kong when a horse moves off a line, more than in England – what they allow in England is a bit more than anywhere else – so I just need to adapt and readjust again to the system of riding here.

“I think internationally there should be one rule and it should be followed the same everywhere. It’s a very international sport but if you take Ireland, France and England as an example, they’re very close together yet they are different with their rules and their interpretations.”

The British stewards’ approach over many years has resulted in a riding culture in which jockeys there often allow their horses to drift when hitting the front. That came to international attention at Royal Ascot in June when Paul Hanagan was suspended for ten days after he allowed his mount The Ridler to drift markedly across his rivals to win the Norfolk Stakes.  

“I think there should be a review of the rules in Britain; and it should be the same everywhere,” said De Sousa. “In France, you can’t move off a line, you get punished; you can’t move off a line in America; you can’t move off a line in Hong Kong either. The problem is there’s not consistency and there needs to be consistency. Hong Kong is very consistent: if you do it, you pay the price, like in France.

“It should be the same rule and the same (application) of the rule everywhere for everyone. If that was the case, everyone would follow that rule all the time.”

This campaign is De Sousa’s first time riding from the start of a Hong Kong season, having previously ridden only short-term stints. His five days on the side lines (September 28 and October 1, 5, 30 and 28) have come at an awkward time for the 41-year-old as he sets about making and rebuilding contacts.

De Sousa after Lucky Sweynesse's Chief Executive's Cup win. (Photo by HKJC)

“I’m pleased with the three winners,” he said. “But, sometimes, when you pick up a bit of momentum and you get stopped like this it can be quite hard to get it going again, but I’ll keep pushing myself and try to get as many rides as I can to try to build up my contacts and my rides again.

“There are a couple of new trainers here now, and I used to pick up quite a few good rides from John Moore but he’s not here anymore; I picked up one for David Hayes the other day, it finished placed, and I’m not riding it next time. That’s how it works here.”

After his early run-ins with the stewards, De Sousa knows better than ever that taking a ‘When in Rome’ approach is the only way to make things work.



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