Racing: Careless riding rule reformed: Portman Square's perestroika means that winning connections will no longer pay the price when a jockey receives the wages of sin

Click to follow
NATIONAL HUNT fences have been doing it for years, but, for the first time, racecourse stewards will be allowed to separate horse and jockey from this spring. New disciplinary rules to be introduced in April mean that, in cases of careless riding, local stewards will be able to penalise jockeys without penalising horses. Some winners will be allowed to keep a race despite transgressions from their partners.

Following the overturning of a whip suspension for Declan Murphy and the decision to maintain Ascot's Queen Alexandra Stakes, both following plentiful public comment, Portman Square continued the perestroika yesterday by pandering to the man in the betting shop. No more will punters be denied collection if their horse is the winner on merit but their rider has committed a minor sin.

The mechanism for rescuing some bets is the introduction of a clause to cover 'irresponsible riding', an offence which will be invoked by a deliberate manoeuvre from the jockey. This misdemeanour frees the present term of 'careless riding' to encompass a misjudgement or piece of inattention which will lead to punishment for the jockey but his mount retaining its original position.

'In its simplest terms, we have allowed horse and rider to be separated for genuine cases of careless riding,' Anthony Mildmay-White, the Chairman of the Jockey Club's Disciplinary Committee, said yesterday. 'But when carelessness becomes irresponsible, but less than reckless or intentional, we have retained the link between horse and rider.'

Public opinion aside, the Jockey Club has also been jogged into action by lax application of the old rules from racecourse stewards. And if one race has promoted the rule change it is the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot last year, which Kingmambo kept after an inquiry despite breaking the letter of the law.

'The Disciplinary Committee has acknowledged that in some cases of interference, usually involving an easy winner, stewards of meetings may not always follow the advice set out in Jockey Club instruction H12,' Mildmay-White said. 'As a result, instances which the Disciplinary Committee would interpret as careless riding are sometimes being downgraded to accidental interference, enabling stewards of meetings to allow the 'best' horse to win.'

The stewards will, of course, determine whether the new rule is a success and Mildmay- White is confident of their capacity to carry out his guidelines. 'We are taking pretty determined steps in the training that we are giving them and stewards' secretaries to ensure they understand the way the rule works, so I have no fears,' he said.

In the wake of the decision of the panel at Warwick to let Adrian Maguire escape punishment for overuse of the whip, others may not be so confident. Certainly, Michael Caulfield, the secretary of the Jockeys' Association, believes there will be even more pressure on local officials.

'The Jockey Club now has a framework within which they can start to educate their stewards and, if they can't understand it, it is going to result in many arguments,' he said. 'Now we've now got another category, the dividing line between all the categories is that much smaller. The rule book is pretty complex these days and this rule will only be as good as the people who preside over it.'

(Photograph omitted)