After a period of hibernation, the new whip rules resurfaced on the sport's emotional register yesterday when two jockeys, albeit at opposite extremes of the spectrum, picked up a staggering 74 days' suspension between them.
One, Robert Cooper, was an amateur whose unfettered riding in a maiden hurdle at Uttoxeter on New Year's Day may be presumed to reflect his hunger for a first success in 12 years.
The other was Robert Winston, a senior professional whose 22-day ban at Southwell re-opened wounds that had been responding to the healing efforts of riders and regulators over recent weeks.
Having been heavily criticised, the British Horseracing Authority (bha) had made significant revisions to the rules introduced in October. And jockeys had appeared to be reciprocating, however unhappily, by adjusting the habits of years.
Winston, however, was found to have used his whip both excessively and in the forehand position, down the shoulder, in narrowly failing to get Zenarinda past an odds-on favourite, the pair well clear. As this was his second offence within 12 months, the stewards upgraded their punishment.
"I'm absolutely disgusted," said Winston.
"I get penalised heavily for trying to win a race and trying to prevent an accident. And if I get done again, it will be a couple of months.
"It's an absolute joke. I've been riding 15 years and it feels an insult that I'm being told what to do."
Fearing a collision with Leonna Mayor's mount, Winston said that he had used the stick "three times in the forehand as a safety measure." He suggested these strikes should duly be disregarded and that he had otherwise kept to the new limit of seven.
Cooper had been summoned to appear before the BHA disciplinary panel after hitting Elton Fox, a length winner, no fewer than 23 times -- 15 more than is permitted in a race over jumps.
Moreover, on a dozen occasions he was found to have used the whip without giving his mount time to respond. He was duly suspended for 52 days when amateur races are scheduled.
There was a corresponding show of emotion when Cooper contrived another rare winner at Fontwell only hours later.
Passing the post well clear on Mortimers Cross, he threw his whip away, though the 34-year-old appeared to repent of an apparent inclination to end his career.
"I'm not a jockey known for using the stick, and it's the first ban I've ever had," he said. "I've got a bit of a holiday now to think about things, but this horse is an absolute star, the sort that gives you the buzz to keep going."
Meanwhile, there were two Irish-trained winners in England yesterday. Larne's Stuart Crawford enjoyed his fifth cross-channel success of the campaign when Best Legend defied odds of 11/1 to prevail by a head in a desperate finish to the beginners' chase at Catterick.
British champion apprentice Martin Harley, a native of Letterkenny, completed a good two days for Michael McElhone when winning on Drinmoy Lad (2/1) at Southwell.
Sligo-based McElhone had saddled his first winner since July 2008 when Dooney Rock collected at Fairyhouse 24 hours previously.
Meanwhile, Ted Durcan was seen at his best when Dark Matter landed the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial at Meydan.
Trained by Singapore-based Steven Burridge, the colt was sent off at 16/1 against some well regarded youngsters.
Frankie Dettori's mount Rassam, the odds-on favourite, travelled best into the straight, but he flattened out to finish third. (© Independent News Service)