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Fox is backed to learn from two-year ban for drugs use

By Martin Kelly

Trainer Gavin Cromwell has vowed to support Ger Fox after the Irish Grand National-winning jockey was named as one of three riders to receive a two-year ban after testing positive for a metabolite of cocaine.

Along with amateur riders Roger Quinlan and Danny Benson, Fox, who won the Fairyhouse showpiece aboard the Mouse Morris-trained Rogue Angel in 2016, was found guilty of the offence by a Turf Club referrals committee at a hearing on Thursday evening.

Fox was suspended for two years, but the referrals committee said they would review the matter again in five and a half months, providing he “submits to a random testing programme” and “continues to have the support of his employer, Gavin Cromwell”.

Cromwell, trainer of dual Grade One-winning mare Jer’s Girl and exciting juvenile Espoir D’Allen, has given Fox several rides and also employs him as his assistant.

The trainer said: “I don’t condone what he has done, but everyone is entitled to a second chance. He’s a good worker and a great asset to the yard. Hopefully he’ll learn from this.”

Quinlan had 21 months of his ban suspended as long as he “does not breach the same rule again during the period of suspension”.

Benson’s suspension will be assessed in six months if he “positively engages” in a programme of rehabilitation.

In total, eight jockeys were tested after a meeting at Galway in October, with Fox, Quinlan and Benson returning positive urine samples.

The referrals committee took into account “a number of mitigating factors” when it came to the penalties imposed on Fox, Benson and Quinlan.

Meanwhile, Thistlecrack remains on course to defend his King George VI Chase crown on Boxing Day despite suffering a shock defeat to Beer Goggles in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

The nine-year-old’s eagerly-anticipated return following a 307-day lay-off ultimately turned into a disappointment, with Colin Tizzard’s stable star trailing home fifth of the six runners in the three-mile contest.

For two and a half miles of the Grade Two prize, it had looked as though Tom Scudamore’s mount was going to warm up for Kempton with a win, but the 11-10 favourite folded long before the final flight.

It was left to Unowhatimeanharry to take the fight to Beer Goggles, but the Richard Woollacott-trained six-year-old was not to be denied his moment of glory, with champion jockey Richard Johnson steering the 40-1 shot to victory by two and a quarter lengths.

Tizzard said: “I think we were absolutely right coming here before the King George. He is a big, heavy horse and he got tired in the last two furlongs.

“As long as he comes out sound we shall be going there (King George). I am just glad we didn’t go to the King George without a run.”

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