LEE PONDERS APPEAL
By ADAM HICKS firstname.lastname@example.org BALLINA trainer Stephen Lee will today decide whether to seek legal counsel or appeal against the stewards' inquiry finding that his apprentice Joshua Jones was solely responsible for causing the racing accident that fatally injured jockey Daniel Baker.
Lee acknowledged that Jones had contributed to the fall, but he is not convinced that it was all Jones' fault.
On Wednesday, Jones was handed a three-month suspension for careless riding after a stewards' inquiry found he caused Baker's mount, Hotshot Hayil, to crash into the turf at Grafton on December 2.
"He's (Jones) contributed to it, I don't doubt that, but I don't think he's 100 per cent responsible," Lee said.
Lee attended the stewards' inquiry at the Clarence River Jockey Club where footage of the race was viewed for the first time.
Four jockeys from the race, Jones, Lorna Cook, Andrew Parramore and Ben Looker, together with Lee, Daniel's mother Debbie and Hotshot Hayil's trainer Brett Bellamy, were all given the opportunity to comment on the circumstances surrounding the fall.
"That's the first time I've seen that footage. I can see that Josh has shifted in but I need to see why he is the only one to blame for the fall," Lee said.
"I've got to protect that kid where I think that's fair. We're going to decide our appeal tomorrow.
"The inquiry lasted two-and-a-half hours. He was charged, convicted and sentenced in that time of causing the fall in which a young man was tragically killed.
"If we did appeal, it would be because you only see the footage of video in a session that lasted 30 minutes. You couldn't have any legal representative there and if we did appeal, it's not toward Debbie, Daniel or his family.
"The inquiry has placed 100 per cent of blame on Josh and if we do appeal it's just to gain time to go through the footage more and maybe have a legal representative to view the footage.
"We just need to be certain that the fall was 100 per cent his fault."
The stewards' inquiry determined Jones allowed his mount, Concitare, to shift in passing the 200m mark while being ridden with the whip resulting in Hotshot Hayil being badly crowded, becoming unbalanced and falling.
Lee said he would not fight the outcome if further examination of the tapes showed that only Jones shifted in the straight.
"If every other horse kept their line, I'd say he (Joshua) is responsible," Lee said. "If the others didn't move, then yes."
Speaking during the inquiry, Jones pleaded not guilty and said he only made contact with Baker after Lorna Cook, aboard Rose General, bumped him over.
But Cook said there was enough room for her to come through and that the pressure had come from the outside. The stewards concluded: "Whilst we acknowledge that there is slight moving up by Rose General, that may well be as a result of Concitare inviting Hotshot Hayil on the hind quarters of Rose General.
"Irrespective, we are satisfied the severe crowding of Hotshot Hayil was a direct result of the movement in, from Concitare."
Baker's godfather and Coffs Harbour-based trainer Gordon Yorke, who was present at the inquiry, said he would be very disappointed if Jones appealed.
Lee said any appeal would not be an act of disrespect toward the Baker family.
"He's come out of that room the only one blamed. He's a 16-year-old kid, he's come out of there blamed for the fall that tragically killed ... another jockey," Lee said.
"Josh is going to have to live with it for the rest of his life."