HORSE POWER: It’s bewildering that the show went on at Newcastle after Graham Lee’s life-changing fall… PLUS what a miss Iroko will be this winter

It was an hour before the first race in Newcastle last Wednesday when word reached the weighing room of an update to the race list.

With the weather impacting the entire country and a meeting in Fontwell next Sunday in jeopardy, the British Horseracing Authority’s racing department believes it would be wise to put contingency plans in place.

The BHA required a second match to support the main action at Cheltenham, which would be shown live on ITV. So there was an invitation to racecourse owners to make their pitch.

Only one bid was received. It came from Newcastle, owned by Arena Racing Company.

In their portfolio of 16 courses, ARC has other all-weather locations: Southwell, which was temporarily out of use last month due to massive flood damage, and Wolverhampton, but these were never an option.

The decision to move race day to Newcastle from Sunday was deeply unpopular with jockeys

Hayley Turned highlighted the difficulty of the jockey’s lifestyle and his heavy commitments

So it was back to Newcastle for the jockeys. They had been there the Friday and Saturday before, and again on Tuesday. After Wednesday, with the eight-stage card, they would be there again on Friday and Sunday. So six trips to Gosforth Park in ten days. To say this decision was unpopular with jockeys would be an understatement.

The men and women who mainly practice their profession on the northern railway lines do not benefit from drivers on the highways taking the lead or receiving courses at their doorstep.

They have a tough job, a relentless slog looking for winners while trying to maintain relationships. One day say no to a trainer about riding and that will most likely mean you won’t be asked to work with him or her in the future.

“We can never plan anything,” Hayley Turner told Mail Sport earlier this month. ‘If you get off your horse because you want to do something fun, you don’t get that ride back. Unless you are in the top 10 and you can choose whether you can afford to have a day off every now and then. But actually, I don’t think they can even say no. It’s hard (personally), but it’s harder for your family. The number of weddings, baptisms, barbecues, parties you miss. You just have to say no all the time when you’re invited. It is difficult.’

On this occasion the decision should have been taken out of the hands of the jockeys. If there was ever a time for someone to look at the bigger picture and say enough is enough, it was on Sunday. The show doesn’t have to go on forever.

The reason for the heightened emotions was clear to everyone except those who raised their hands for the additional fixture. Where on earth was the sense – or any semblance of compassion – to tell them they had to return to the scene of an incident that had such a profound effect on everyone?

Graham Lee, one of the most popular and respected cyclists, had suffered life-changing injuries in just over a week during the first of those six races.

Newcastle raced alone that day because Doncaster – also owned by ARC – was soggy and no one wanted to lose the two-day race that brings the curtain down on the Flat season.

But the moment Lee was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary for assessment, the landscape changed. What if the November handicap didn’t happen? When Lee was injured on Friday, authorities should have intervened and called off the meeting.

Graham Lee suffered a life-changing fall in the stalls of Newcastle on Friday November 10

The jockey is deeply admired and loved in the sport, and his on-course injury remains emotionally charged

The mood in the weighing room was described by one rider as ‘pretty damn terrible’ the day after Lee’s fall and had not improved by Wednesday. How could it be? Lee’s desperate condition reminded them all how dangerous their profession is. It could have been any of them.

But this isn’t just about the jockeys. What about the maternity attendants, who were just feet away from Lee when he fell? Should they just keep doing their job – a very dangerous one at that – without thinking for a second about what happened?

What about the traveling head boys and girls, the grooms and the trainers who know and admire Lee? This has really affected everyone in racing. Whatever song you’ve been to since that terrible moment on November 10, it’s the one thing everyone has been talking about.

There are days when Newcastle comes alive, such as when it hosts the Northumberland Plate in June and the Fighting Fifth Hurdle in December, and with its long straight and good ground it is a place where top yards are happy to introduce decent horses.

But no one would have missed a meeting there on Sunday. Those in authority will argue differently and say that 68 entries serve a purpose. However, there is more to life than numbers and markets, and it is baffling that this was not visible. This was a bad decision.

It’s been two weeks since this column raved about the rich potential of Iroko, a novice fighter who had won his first start over fences without getting out of first gear. To his young trainers, Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero, Iroko is the kind of horse that keeps them warm on freezing mornings.

Greenall and Guerriero are mobile and lifted a major prize at Cheltenham last Friday – albeit by chance – when another novice, Homme Public, won a Grade Two event after the favorite JPR One capsized after the final obstacle.

But they will now be able to progress this season without Iroko, who suffered a foot problem this weekend.

He will make a full recovery and be back this time next year, but here was another reminder of how fragile this game is. What a miss Iroko will be this winter.

The Gordon Elliott-trained Coko Beach won the Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan on Sunday

Gordon Elliott broke his own world record at Navan last Sunday when he saddled 14 of the 20 runners in the Troytown Handicap Chase.

There would have been 15 if the Cavalry Master had not withdrawn at the start. Elliott’s horses made up four of the first five, including winner Coko Beach.

Nine were owned by Ryanair founder Michael O’Leary and ran in the maroon side of his Gigginstown Stud. It’s been four years since O’Leary said he was winding down his interest in racing, but this was the latest proof that you should take his statements with a grain of salt.

He wants to win as much as Elliott does. They fit together well.