Gavin Sheehan celebrates winning the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury last weekend on Datsalrightgino
Credit: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Gavin Sheehan has spoken of his relief at getting a controversial 14-day riding ban overturned and is now plotting how he can overturn Constitution Hill – a horse he describes as the best in training – at Sandown on Saturday.
Sheehan enjoyed a memorable day last weekend when he won Newbury’s Coral Gold Cup on the Jamie Snowden-trained Datsalrightgino and is due to partner stablemates Colonel Harry and You Wear It Well in Grade 1s at Sandown.
However, he could only really relish that prospect shortly after 3pm on Thursday when an appeal against a suspension dished out to him at Huntingdon for his ride on Zain Nights for Lucy Wadham last month – which initially ruled him out of those engagements – was upheld at a disciplinary panel hearing.
Stewards on duty that afternoon reasoned the 31-year-old failed to ask his mount for a “timely, real and substantial effort to obtain the best possible placing”.
They also banned the gelding, beaten 16 lengths into third by Tellherthename, later described by his jockey Kielan Woods as the best he has ridden, from running for 40 days.
Wadham, who said she was pleased with Sheehan’s ride in a subsequent inquiry, was fined £3,000 for schooling and conditioning the horse on a racecourse.
She was also successful with her appeal, which was heard by Rachel Spearing, Austin Allison and Joanna Armstrong during a lengthy and thorough process.
Sheehan, whose ban was due to start on Saturday, breathed a huge sigh of relief and said: “I was expecting to get off, but you never count your chickens. I thought the right thing was to have it quashed.
“Saturday is a massive day for me, Jamie and the owners with two Grade 1 runners and I would have been very upset had this gone the wrong way, but I didn’t think we even needed to be here [appealing] in the first place.”
The Cork native won the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on You Wear It Well in March and she is due to contest the rearranged Betfair-backed Fighting Fifth Hurdle (1.15) at Sandown, where the towering presence of the unbeaten Constitution Hill lies in wait.
“She’s a very special mare,” Sheehan added. “But Constitution Hill is the best horse in training and if I could ride any horse it would be him. Every horse can have a bad day, though, and I’m on a mare who doesn’t know how to have one. She’s tough, hard and gives her all. She’s likeable, honest and felt stronger when she won at Wetherby last time, which is exciting, but she does need to improve.
“I want to win every race and will go out there with the clear intention to win, but it would be brilliant if we finished second to Constitution Hill, who is a superstar – we’re taking on the best.”
You Wear It Well is a top-priced 14-1 to dethrone the exceptional 1-5 favourite, but Sheehan has, in betting terms, a bigger chance of winning Sandown’s Betfair Henry VIII Novices’ Chase (1.50) on Colonel Harry, a 4-1 shot who made a winning debut over fences at Chepstow last month.
“He’ll relish testing conditions and won nicely last time, while he really enjoyed Sandown on two runs there last season,” the rider said.
“This could be his Gold Cup in a sense because we know, touch wood, he should stay well up the hill on the ground.”
Many observers feel Sheehan, Britain’s champion conditional in 2013-14 who had his most prolific campaign with 79 winners last term, is riding better than ever, but he is keen to keep grounded despite appearing to be on the crest of a wave.
He registered more victories (19) in November than any other month, and with 55 winners to his name this season is well on course to surpass his 2022-23 tally.
“I normally head home after the races, but it was wonderful to go into the royal box at Newbury after Datsalrightgino with his owners – the Glyn-Davies family – and Jamie and his family,” Sheehan added.
“But I still have a lot of learning to do, and I mean that. People are entitled to say I’m riding well, but I am riding better horses. I do think I’ve improved as a rider and a person, but I hope there’s more to come and the day you stop trying to improve is the day you kind of give up. Hopefully there are more good days to come, starting on Saturday.”