Leading jockeys have welcomed the fundamental changes to the whip rules announced by the British Horseracing Authority. The new rules remove the automatic ban that riders currently receive for going one over the amount of ‘hits’ allowed during a race.
The new rules will be introduced early next month,and will see stewards have the power to review a ride rather than give an automatic ban. It will also more discretion on the part of the authorities when it comes to imposing penalties. The penalty structure which currently exists has also been changed and will come into effect from tomorrow. One strike over the limit will still warrant a two-day ban, but two more will now incur a four-day suspension, rather than five, and repeat offences will be reviewed case by case,instead of the current procedure where days multiply.
Richard Hughes, who briefly retired in protest at the rule changes last season,welcomed the new regulations: “I’m delighted they’ve changed the rules as they were doing more damage than good.
“I was one of the first to say let’s have a set number of times we can use the whip during a race, but it was very hard to put into practice. It is hard for some people to believe, but it honestly was more difficult than we could have imagined, as every horse is different. I’m hoping to come back (from India) to England next week some time and I’m looking forward to getting back riding there now.
“I’d imagine I’ll be having a day out at Cheltenham and then the week after that it’s the Winter Derby at Lingfield, so hopefully I might be riding there.”
Jamie Spencer also gave the new rules his approval saying: “From my understanding, it’s good progress. We’ll obviously have to see how it plays out and it’s more a case of looking at it when everything is in place. The best thing from the start would have been a trial period anyway.
“Personally, I haven’t had much input for the whole process, so I’m more of an outsider looking in. It’s not cut and dried, but the system had to change and I am pleased with the level of consultancy.”
However, Jason Maguire who received a five-day suspension for using his whip with excessive frequency during Ballabriggs Grand National win, has reserved judgement on the changes. The Irish rider said:
“I don’t know what to think. I don’t want to say too much about it. The thing about the rules as they were, you knew where you stood with the amount of times you could use the whip. It looks like they are now giving the stewards more discretion, but stewards at one course will have different ideas to stewards at another course, so we’re just going to have to see what happens. We’ll work with what we have and see how it goes.”