It was one of the most shocking incidents you are ever likely to see in the middle of a horse race.
What went through Christophe Soumillon’s head when he decided to elbow fellow jockey Rossa Ryan out of the saddle during a race in France only he can explain, but the consequences of his actions could have been disastrous.
The French jockey was contesting Prix Thomas Bryon Jockey Club de Turquie last Friday aboard Syros, and he was sat at the back of the field as he approached Ryan’s mount Captain Wierzba.
Soumillon, seemingly without provocation or any explanation, proceeded to elbow Ryan with such force that the Irishman was unseated, before sickeningly cartwheeling down the Saint-Cloud track.
Incredibly, Ryan was left unhurt by the incident but obviously very shaken, and thankfully he returned to the saddle the following day despite his various aches and pains.
“I’m fine. I was a bit stiff this morning, but I’m all right, thank God,” Rossa confirmed.
“It was one of these things that happened, and I don’t know what was going on in Christophe’s mind.
“It was the first fall I’ve kind of walked away from thinking I was very lucky, with the way I landed. I was very lucky, but I live to fight another day.”
Soumillon has since admitted he was in the wrong and issued an apology to Ryan, lamenting his own ‘terrible decision’.
“Straight away I knew I made a mistake, and I’m terribly sad what happened because I hate to see stuff like this,” the Frenchman said.
A Fitting Punishment?
Unsurprisingly, France Galop – horse racing’s governing body in the country – decided to ban Soumillon for 60 days, bringing a premature end to his Flat season. However, some have criticised the length of the penalty, suggesting it was not severe enough for an incident that could have left Ryan seriously injured.
There was further controversy when it was revealed that the ban would be held off until October 14, which enabled Soumillon to take his confirmed ride in the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe aboard Vadeni, who he would guide to second place in Sunday’s showpiece.
But Soumillon has got his comeuppance after it was revealed that Aga Khan Studs have decided to cut ties with the former King George and Commonwealth Cup winner, and will no longer retain his services.
“At this stage, there is no intention to retain a jockey in France for the foreseeable future,” a spokesperson for the Aga Khan confirmed.
The statement also detailing that Soumillon will be dropped with immediate effect.
Soumillon had two stints as the retained rider in the famous green and red silks, first from 2002 to 2009 and again from 2014 until his sacking earlier today. Together, they combined for a stack of big wins on French soil, including two Arc victories in 2003 and 2008, and the jockey effectively signed off on his stint as Aga’s Gallic star with victory in the Qatar Prix Daniel Wilderstein on Saturday.