'It was a mistake' - leading rider ejected from Newmarket after Covid-19 breach

Jockey Ben Curtis was ejected from Newmarket on Friday night after breaching the BHA's Covid-19 zonal protocols, with trainer Marco Botti expressing his sympathy for what he described as a "mistake" from the leading rider.

The Racing Post understands Curtis accidentally entered the wrong zone for a short period before his intended ride on Silver Samurai in the 5.55. Curtis went to the restricted owners' exclusive area as it was empty and was abiding by social distancing measures before being escorted out of the racecourse.

Tracks in Britain have been divided up with areas for essential workers – such as jockeys, trainers and stable staff – and for owners. Under the BHA's coronavirus-specific protocols, those on course must stay in their zone at all times.

It meant Yorkshire-based Curtis missed his only ride of the day on Silver Samurai in the mile handicap. David Egan stepped in to ride the 7-4 favourite, who finished fourth behind Hot Summer.

Curtis had been due to ride four favourites at Hamilton on Friday before the meeting was cancelled due to waterlogging. The jockey switched plans in order to ride Silver Samurai at Newmarket, having won on the three-year-old at Redcar last month.

Botti, who trains Silver Samurai, said: "It was a mistake as he walked through the owners' zone and somebody spotted him, and so he's not been allowed to ride. When Hamilton was off, the owners wanted Ben to ride because he knows the horse well and his agent said he wanted to come down to Newmarket.

"I feel sorry for Ben. He has come all the way down and that was his only ride."

Last month Gary Moore was ejected from Goodwood and subsequently given a £750 fine following a BHA disciplinary panel hearing. Friday's incident will now be looked at by the BHA.

Amy Starkey, east regional director for Jockey Club Racecourses, said: "Ben Curtis was escorted out of Newmarket racecourse for breaching Covid protocols in relation to movement between zones. The matter is now being dealt with by the BHA."

Curtis, who is Britain's winningmost jockey in the calendar year with a tally of 129, is booked for seven rides at Redcar on Saturday.

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