Whip rule changes get green light just in time for Cheltenham
The new whip rules, which have been a thorn in the side of both jockeys and British racing officials since they were introduced in October, are to undergo a fundamental change -- in time to prevent the Cheltenham Festival becoming a public relations disaster.
In recent weeks, with a spate of high-profile suspensions, there had been fears that the sport's showcase meeting would be overshadowed by a series of whip bans.
From early March -- though it is not yet formalised -- jockeys going over the stipulated number of strikes (seven on the Flat and eight over jumps) will only trigger stewards' interest in their ride and the manner of their use of the whip. It will no longer result in an automatic suspension.
It means that stewards will be able to apply not only more discretion in their policing work, but also common sense.
The revised penalty structure will also be retrospectively applied to suspensions still to be served.
One strike over will still warrant a two-day ban, but two more will now incur a four-day suspension, rather than five days as is the case at present.
In a radical change, repeat offences at both the lower and upper level of whip offences will not result in the penalty multiplying. Each offence will now be treated on its own merits.
Repeat offenders will, however, be referred to the disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).
The new proposals, put forward by new chief executive Paul Bittar, were given the backing of his directors at a BHA board meeting yesterday.
The news was welcomed by the Professional Jockeys' Association's new chief executive, Paul Struthers.
"This recognises that a grey issue cannot be proportionately and fairly regulated by a black and white rule," said Struthers.
While pointing out that in their four months of existence the new rules had met some of their objectives, Bittar said: "A rule which polices the use of the whip based solely on a fixed number of strikes is fundamentally flawed. In practice, it has repeatedly thrown up examples of no consideration for the manner in which the whip is used." (© Daily Telegraph, London)