Hughes and Fox hit by whip bans
Richard Hughes and Kieren Fox claimed an unwanted place in the history books yesterday when they were the first jockeys to fall foul of new whip guidelines.
The controversial rules were set out by the British Horseracing Authority at the end of last month, and officially came into effect yesterday.
Fox, who claims 3lb, was handed a 15-day ban at Salisbury after hitting Orthodox Lad 11 times -- seven times in the final furlong -- when winning the Bathwick Tyres Salisbury Handicap by a short head. Kildare native Hughes was given five days after finishing third on Swift Blade, which was adjudged to have been hit six times inside the final furlong during the same race.
The revised sanctions state a Flat jockey can only hit their mount seven times, and just five times inside the final furlong. Both jockeys will lose their percentage of prize money and will also have to forfeit their riding fee.
"I'll have to go back to school to learn how to count. I knew exactly what I was doing and I was aware -- I hit him down the neck for correction matters, nothing else," said Hughes.
"I rubbed him once before and he was leaning in, so I flicked him one down the neck, purely to keep him straight. They said you aren't allowed to use your stick as correction and I was under the impression you were allowed to do that."
Head of stewards William Nunneley expressed disappointment at Fox and Hughes having breached the new rules.
"Kieren Fox hit his horse 11 times, four before the final furlong and seven in the final furlong," he stated. "Richard Hughes hit his six times in the final furlong and he has received a five-day suspension. It had to happen some day and I'm afraid the penalties are there and they are severe.
"We've been trying to educate the riders and, at the end of the day, they are the people on top and they are the ones who got us where we are, if you like. I'm very disappointed we've had two breaches and I'm certainly disappointed with Kieren Fox as that's not just forgetting, that's way over the top.
"I was rather hoping that they would understand they have got to change the way they use the whip. It's a behavioural thing that has got to change.
"They wanted clarity and what we had before wasn't working -- we had 850 breaches of the rule in a year. We had to try and find a way of getting them to concentrate on their riding.
"We've noticed a big difference in the way people have been riding (in the last 10 days). They have definitely been thinking about it."
Frankie Dettori had earlier admitted he was "scared" riding under the new rules. "That was my first ride and I must say I was very aware and very scared. I spent most of the race worrying and making sure I counted them," he explained. "It will take time to adapt and I also found it very hard to distinguish if I was inside or outside the furlong marker."
Increased entry-point penalties have also been implemented, with a five-day minimum suspension for not adhering to the frequency limits. The previous minimum penalty was a caution.
"I set myself a rule that I wouldn't exceed four (hits)," Dettori said. "That way I will not be too close to the edge. I think we just need to tweak it a bit. We have to do something for the sport so we don't look like we're cruel to animals, but the whip is a tool of our profession if used correctly.
"If we can sit down with the BHA to try and tweak it in a way that us, the stewards and the public can understand it, it would be acceptable. We'll do our best, but when you've been riding one way for 25 years and expect to change overnight, it will take time."
Jockeys in action at Yarmouth and Windsor on the same afternoon escaped any punishment under the new guidelines. Hughes did have better luck in the juvenile fillies maiden when guiding Richard Hannon's Operettist to victory.
"She ran very well first time when she got left and the kickback in Kempton at the moment is horrendous," said Hughes. "She has come on at home since then, so I thought she just might be good enough to win today. She'll get further, she's tough and she gallops."