ONE of Britain's most exciting and talented young jockeys is being prevented from riding after finding himself the subject of a BHA investigation that could continue for up to six months.
Darren Egan was among the early favourites to win this year's apprentice championship, but he has been unable to ride in public for more than six weeks despite protests from the Professional Jockeys Association.
Egan was poised on the heels of the leaders in the title race with 22 winners and looked set to mount a major challenge when last seen in the saddle at Warwick on August 26.
The first indication of a problem came two days later when officials attributed the 21-year-old missing three booked mounts at Kempton to a complication with his licence, but it has since emerged it had been relinquished 24 hours earlier and the BHA has so far refused to consider his application for a new one.
Jockeys accused of even the most serious corruption offences are permitted to continue riding until the disciplinary process concludes, but while no charges have been issued against Egan, his case is different in that the BHA's rules prohibit granting a licence to any individual under investigation by its security department.
Egan, who rode 47 winners last year, was in the process of switching his licence from Ron Harris, for whom he had not ridden since May 23, to Newmarket trainer John Butler when his career as a rising star of the Flat was brought to a sudden halt.
Egan, who was desperate to win the apprentice crown after finishing runner-up to Amy Ryan last season when sidelined for the final three weeks of the campaign with a broken collarbone, is now working as a stable employee at Butler's yard while his future on the track remains in doubt.
He burst on to the scene after joining Harris last year and it is believed the investigation relates to the period prior to his decision to relocate to Newmarket five months ago.
There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by the Chepstow-based trainer, although the probe could possibly involve Egan's riding of one or more of his horses.
PJA chief executive Paul Struthers said on Thursday night: "Back in August Darren sought to move employer and as would be usual the BHA wished to speak to both parties to establish the facts before allowing the move.
"This delay would normally be a couple of weeks but it was over three weeks before the BHA even agreed to interview Darren about the reasons for his move.
"At this interview Darren was issued with a telephone production order and told he would need to be interviewed separately as part of an investigation. He was specifically told this interview might not take place for a number of months.
"The BHA investigator's report into the circumstances surrounding Darren's new application was submitted on Monday, September 23, but it wasn't until 4.40pm on the Friday the BHA informed Darren they would not consider licensing him until his telephone records had been received – he'd been given 21 days to produce those records at the interview nine days earlier – and he'd been interviewed.
"We immediately complained to the BHA, although again had to wait until the middle of the following week for a response. We formally responded last Friday and again only received their response today, when they became aware that a media story – unprompted by us – was pending."
Struthers added: "We entirely support a robust approach to integrity but it must be fair and no regulator should abuse the powers bestowed upon it as the BHA is in danger of appearing to do, however temporarily – in this case.
"They have already deprived Darren of the chance to earn a living for seven weeks and the inexcusable delays have caused the matter to get into the public domain.
"We warned the BHA about this and the damage this would cause to Darren's reputation. The damage is now done, although we hope his willingness to take the unprecedented step of confirming the investigation will go some way to repairing it."
BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey said: "It is BHA policy not to comment on investigations or speculation surrounding potential investigations."