Stuart Higgins gets a big final fence jump from Jackfrost only to have his Gand National Hurdles win soured by an eight-week suspension.
What should have been the most enjoyable day of his career has ended on a sour note for Invercargill jumps jockey Stuart Higgins.
The middle day of the Grand National carnival began for the 26-year-old Englishman by riding Blues Breaker, owned and trained by his partner Amanda Schwarz, to an all-the-way maiden hurdle win.
Topping that, he brought home the favourite Jackfrost for a hugely popular victory in the Hospitality Canterbury Grand National Hurdles, sharing the occasion with Wingatui trainers Brian and Shane Anderton and the large group of owners who go by the self-explanatory label Frosty’s Shoutin The Beers Syndicate.
But the only post-race shouting Higgins was to partake in centred on the heavy suspension handed out for his riding over the final stages of today’s $75,000 feature. He was charged with unnecessary use of the whip and was suspended for eight weeks up to and including October 10, as well as being fined $800. The suspension effectively rules him out of race riding until the start of the 2019 jumps season next May.
“I’m absolutely gutted, I can’t believe it,” Higgins told www.theinformant.co.nz tonight. “I should be out celebrating with everyone else, but that’s the last thing I feel like doing.
“Amanda and I are back at our motel and me, I have to admit all I can do is feel sorry for myself.
“Once I’ve ridden at Te Aroha on Wednesday that will be it for the rest of the year. That will mean missing the Great Northern meeting, Pakuranga, National Jumps Day – whatever’s left of the season.
“It’s very hard to take, from celebrating my biggest win and thinking what it means for my career, then to be hit with this.
“I’ve put heart and soul into making a go of it over the past couple of years. It’s not easy based down in Invercargill and being the only committed jumps jockey in the whole of the South Island.
“But I’ve really pushed myself, I’ve travelled where ever I’ve had to and felt like I was making a contribution. The way I feel right now though, I’m wondering why I bothered.”