England clears Sutherland to ride in Pacific Classic

Chantal Sutherland

DEL MAR — Tommy Ball, agent for jockey Chantal Sutherland, said his client has been cleared by Ascot’s racing stewards in England to compete in the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic on Aug. 26.

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Sutherland drew a four-day suspension for excessive use of her whip on a horse at Saturday’s Shergar Cup in Ascot, England. It appeared her ride on Game On Dude in the Pacific Classic was in jeopardy when Del Mar’s stewards questioned how England’s suspension rules played out in the California. In this state, if a jockey draws a suspension, the jockey may ride in designated, or graded stakes races.

Ball said England’s rule is similar, with a twist.

“I just got the ruling from the stewards in England, and she actually can ride any horse on Aug. 26 at Del Mar, not just the Pacific Classic,” Ball said today.

That’s a different wrinkle than the California ruling on suspensions. In California, if a rider draws a suspension, it covers racing days, not dark days. That’s not the case in England, Ball said. Sutherland catches a huge break there and will only miss two days of racing at Del Mar. And England’s rules allow the rider to ride in any other races on the day of the graded stakes race.

Ball said Sutherland’s original suspension was for Aug. 25 through Aug. 28, but the English ruling allows her to defer a day to ride in a graded stakes. She chose to ride Aug. 26 so she can ride Game On Dude in the Pacific Classic for trainer Bob Baffert.

“She gets to defer the day for the Classic and just add it to her suspension,” Ball said. “In England, it’s consecutive days, so she’ll really only miss Saturday and Wednesday of racing at Del Mar.”

Sutherland wasn’t the only jockey suspended for overusing the whip in the Shergar Cup. Cristian Demuro, an Italian rider, and Yutake Take, a Japanese jockey, also received four-day suspensions.

Kieran Fallon, captain of the Great Britain and Ireland squad in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup, defended Sutherland to The National newspaper in England.

“It’s sad, really,” Fallon said. “All Chantal was doing was giving a couple of little taps. Riders tap the horses to encourage them. It is not as if they are hurting the horses. It should have been overlooked for today. They are foreign riders who are not used to our (rules). From their own country, where they can hit a horse as many times as they want, they have suffered for it.”

Sutherland is looking to become the first woman jockey to win the Santa Anita Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic. She won the Santa Anita Handicap on Game On Dude in 2010. She won the Hollywood Gold Cup this year, also on Game On Dude. Last year she finished fourth in the Pacific Classic on Game On Dude.

Sutherland spent Tuesday riding horses early at Del Mar, went and worked out and then was expected to visit with physically- and mentally-challenged participants in the Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Therapeutic Riding Students program.

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