BHA whip u-turn in spotlight
Richard Hughes made sure he put his point across as he waved his whip in celebration upon passing the line with a comeback winner at Newbury yesterday.
The jockey had been in self-imposed exile since last Thursday after picking up two bans in quick succession under the British Horseracing Authority's tough new whip rules.
Hughes' main grievance had been over the five-hit restriction inside the final furlong, and as soon as it was announced that edict had been removed, the Kildare native decided to return to the saddle.
The review group announced major changes to the controversial rules early yesterday morning in a last-ditch effort to fend off the threat of strike action by jockeys.
Riders will not lose their riding fee if they get banned for a whip offence and will forfeit their prize-money percentage only if receiving a suspension of seven days or more -- up from three. Therefore a jockey who uses one more hit than allowed will not lose their prize-money percentage.
The five-hits edict in the 'final furlong/after the last obstacle' has been dropped, although the limit on strikes remains seven in a Flat race, and eight over jumps.
All whip bans incurred since the introduction of the new harsher regime that came in on October 10 will be subject to the new set of rules.
This means Christophe Soumillon, who lost his £52,000 share of the prize-money when banned for five days after hitting Cirrus Des Aigles six times in the final furlong when winning the Champion Stakes, will now be paid.
The BHA's statement said: "The board is committed to the highest standards of regulation in the sport, and ensuring that British horseracing continues to lead the way in matters of equine welfare."
While Hughes admitted he was less than enthusiastic about the severity of the refined whip rules as a whole, his bans have been rescinded and a Breeders' Cup Mile ride on Strong Suit is his again, so he is certainly more content.
Last year's title runner-up did not need to get too serious on Usain Colt in division one of the juvenile maiden as Richard Hannon's youngster looked a bit more like his namesake on a belated return to the track, sweeping two and a quarter lengths clear.
"I'm pleased to be back riding, and I can ride Strong Suit in the Breeders' Cup now," said Hughes. "My beef was with the rules about five strikes after the furlong pole so I'm happy about that, but I don't think much else has changed.
"It's great the BHA have held their hands up and seen it wasn't working. You don't really know if it works until you actually test it out and luckily they saw very quickly it wasn't going the right way and they changed it."