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BHA calming whip storm

THE number of strikes permitted in jump racing may not have changed, but the British Horseracing Authority has again tweaked the controversial new whip rules.

On the eve of Cheltenham's exciting Open Meeting, which got under way today, the BHA amended the rules so that the minimum punishment for any rider going one strike over the allowed limit will now be a two-day ban, rather than five.

And while a second offence for one extra will still be doubled, it will be from two days to four, and not from five to 10. Two uses of the whip over the permitted limit will result in a five-day ban rather than seven, and three extra will see a seven-day ban and not nine.

Another positive from the changes is that the racecourse stewards will now be able to use their discretion before handing down a sentence.

The acting stewards on the day will now hear evidence from any offending rider and they may disregard any strike they feel was for safety or correction purposes.

The old whip rules were met with major objections from jockeys, especially the jumping fraternity, and with such high stakes and top quality racing at Cheltenham this weekend, the whip looked capable of ruining the spectacle.

Jump racing's two leading jockeys, Tony McCoy (pictured) and Ruby Walsh, both fell foul of the rules and, while Walsh missed out on last weekend and served his suspension of five days, he now only faces a four-day ban for reoffending, rather than a 10-day ban under the original rules.

McCoy, who was found guilty on Sunday and is yet to serve his suspension, has seen his penalty reduced from five days to two days, and, therefore, faces the possibility of a four-day ban for a recurrence.