Thursday 22 March 2018

Officials agree to 'review' whip rules

Frankie Dettori and Tony McCoy (right) are surrounded by cameras after yesterday’s meeting with racing officials in London
Frankie Dettori and Tony McCoy (right) are surrounded by cameras after yesterday’s meeting with racing officials in London

Chris McGrath

Some of the world's most accomplished horsemen yesterday sat around a table with the British Horseracing Authority, whose drastic revision of the whip rules a week previously had ignited a sudden firestorm in the sport.

But a protracted delay in any official response to the submissions of Tony McCoy, Frankie Dettori and others seemed to imply either division or uncertainty within the regulators' own ranks. Late last night, the BHA stressed there will be no immediate changes to new whip rules but added the situation will be under review, with a report expected by "no later than the end of the week".

It is believed that the jockeys have called for the heavy financial penalties imposed for breaches of the new whip rules to be scrapped. They also appear to want the restriction of five hits in the final furlong deleted and replaced by a rule that permits a maximum of seven strokes throughout a race on the Flat, without any reference to distance markers.

McCoy and Dettori joined Richard Hughes and Ryan Moore in accompanying Kevin Darley, chief executive of the Professional Jockeys' Association, to a BHA board meeting.

Hughes is refusing to ride under the new regime, having been caught out twice in four days by radical toughening in the definition and punishment of whip offences -- which means the Kildare native will miss out on riding in the Breeders' Cup.

They gave first-hand accounts of the difficulties experienced over the past week, notably in the division of the maximum number of seven slaps -- on the Flat -- either side of the furlong pole, and their unhappiness with the severity of the new penalties. Both these grievances had been united in astounding fashion at Ascot on Saturday when Christophe Soumillon was obliged to forfeit the biggest prize ever won by a jockey on British soil, exceeding £53,000, without even reaching the prescribed limit of seven slaps.

The BHA do not appear to have heard the last of this matter for it emerged last night that Soumillon had taken steps to lodge an appeal and might well take a legal route if that fails. Shippy Ellis, his agent, said: "In view of the disappointment of the BHA not addressing the issue today, Christophe feels in the first instance he must appeal, with a view to other considerations later. He has received overwhelming support from racing people, particularly in France and Canada."

Jockeys had been planning a walkout at Pontefract and Windsor yesterday but agreed to defer any strike after being invited to London to make their case. On leaving the meeting, Darley had been positive about what he described as "open" exchanges.

"We put our points across and hopefully we can come up with a resolution as soon as possible," he said. "It was great to have some jockeys there to put their point across about what happens when you are riding in a race."

The difficulties being experienced by even the most seasoned riders were illustrated shortly afterwards when Joe Fanning was given a five-day suspension for using his whip a sixth time inside the last when second on Dubious Escapade.

Fanning, who evidently became the latest to misjudge the furlong pole, had been given just two whip bans over the previous two decades.

And at Windsor, it got worse for young jockey Kieren Fox who was left contemplating his future in the sport after picking up a 10-day whip ban, just a week after he was suspended for 15 days for falling foul of the new whip regulations at Salisbury.

Fox partnered Push Me to finish second in the one-mile handicap, but was found to to have used his whip with excessive frequency. He will miss November 12 and November 14-24 and said: "I'm riding purely out of love for the sport, but how am I supposed to carry on?

"I've got one kid already and another due on November 7 and I'm earning nothing. After fuel and other expenses, I earned £400 or £500 last month which would barely insure the car. I can't afford to do this job even without getting all of these days."

On the racetrack, meanwhile, Soumillon bounced back from his controversial Champion Stakes ban at Ascot by landing his second big win of the weekend as he guided Sara Lynx to victory in the Canadian International at Woodbine on Sunday.

Soumillon forfeited his percentage of the winnings after breaking the whip rules when winning the Champion Stakes, but there were no such worries as he steered John Hammond's filly to a four-length victory.

In beating last year's winner Joshua Tree, formerly in the care of Aidan O'Brien but now trained by Marco Botti, Sarah Lynx was becoming the first filly or mare to win the Canadian International since Infamy in 1988.

O'Brien's Treasure Beach plugged on for third with the John Gosden-trained 2010 St Leger winner Arctic Cosmos back in fourth.


"He jumped great and he travelled really well," said Treasure Beach's jockey, Colm O'Donoghue. "I had a great position turning in and he was travelling so easy. He tried very hard for me. The ground was probably too soft for him. It was very dead."

Luca Cumani's Quest for Peace was fifth with the Charlie Hills-trained Redwood seventh.

David Simcock's I'm A Dreamer fared best of the British raiders in the EP Taylor Stakes, just being edged out by local runner Miss Keller in a photo finish.

Roger Charlton's Sea Of Heartbreak was out of the frame in the EP Taylor after being given a poor waiting ride by Garrett Gomez and the trainer suffered further disappointment as Bated Breath finished second in the Nearctic Stakes.

Ridden by Gomez, Bated Breath finished with a real rattle but failed to catch Regally Ready by a neck. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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