BHA announce whip rule changes

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The Independent Online

The British Horseracing Authority have announced major changes to the controversial new whip regulations - including the removal of the five-hit rule inside the final furlong/after the last obstacle.

Jockeys have struggled to come to terms with the guidelines since their introduction last Monday, which allow no more than seven hits in a Flat race and eight over jumps.

While that number remains the same, the BHA have scrapped the rule which states jockeys are allowed to use their whip no more than five times inside the final furlong, or after the final obstacle in National Hunt races.

Riders will now not lose their riding fee if suspended for a whip offence.

They will also only lose their percentage of prize-money if their offence earns a ban of seven days or more, rather than the three days the rules originally stated.

A BHA statement read: "The board is committed to the highest standards of regulation in the sport, and ensuring that British Horseracing continues to lead the way in matters of equine welfare.

"This is a sport not without its challenges, but they will always be outweighed by the sport's strengths.

"These challenges will best be met - and are being met - by finding a common purpose amongst the sport's participants, and by putting the sport first."

The adjusted guidelines will come into force for all race meetings this afternoon.

The BHA have also considered the impact on those jockeys who have received penalties that would not have been applied if the changes had been in place since the introduction of the new rules.

These penalties will be rescinded and appropriate measures have been taken, including the release of riding fees and prize-money, where applicable, and riding suspensions either annulled or adjusted.

The move means Christophe Soumillon will now receive the substantial percentage of the prize-money for winning the Qipco Champion Stakes on Cirrus Des Aigles at Ascot last Saturday.

He had been stripped of £52,000 and suspended five days.

The alterations have been made after a controversial week under the new guidelines, which saw Richard Hughes and Kieren Fox found guilty of using the whip with excessive frequency on the first afternoon at Salisbury last Monday.

Hughes received a further suspension at Kempton on October 12 and immediately announced he would be handing in his riding licence until changes were made.

Hughes' decision fuelled rumours of a jockeys' strike, after which the BHA agreed to meet with representatives of the Professional Jockeys Association on Monday to discuss their grievances.

The original whip changes were announced by the BHA following a 10-month review.

An outright ban on using the whip during races had come under discussion during the review.

Use of the whip was the subject of much scrutiny when Jason Maguire was found to have struck Ballabriggs 17 times when winning the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree in April. Maguire was suspended five days.

Frankie Dettori was also banned nine days after he hit Rewilding 24 times inside the final two furlongs of the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot.

A BHA statement added: "Around a year ago, the Authority commenced a review of the use of the whip in horseracing, focusing on the need for such use, any potential equine welfare issues and the effectiveness of the existing penalty structure.

"Whilst this process was commenced before the issue was brought to wider public attention, the importance of the review was highlighted by the widespread and significant public comment following a number of high-profile breaches of the rules.

"The process was formalised in April 2011 with a review encompassing wide consultation both within and outside the industry and led by a dedicated Review Group.

"The resulting report - 'A Review of the use of the whip in Horseracing' - set out clear principles behind the role of the whip in the sport and the need to ensure that the rules surrounding its use robustly safeguarded the welfare of both jockeys and horses, and protected and enhanced the reputation of racing.

"The review was clear regarding the need to achieve behavioural change amongst jockeys and others - a change in attitudes towards the whip was required.

"The review was approved by the Authority's board and widely endorsed upon publication, including by jockeys both in the statement issued by the Authority and independently by the PJA in their own statement of September 27.

"However, following the introduction of the new rules some concerns were raised by the PJA regarding their implementation and, in light of this, the Authority invited the PJA to make representations to the Authority's board.

"The board emphasises that it must be the role of the regulator, not the sport's participants, to set and enforce the rules.

"Regulation cannot be a negotiation, but must involve due consultation."

Flat jockey Adrian Nicholls, who was hit with a five-day ban at Pontefract on Monday, welcomed the changes.

"I'm glad that common sense has prevailed," said Nicholls.

"I'm chuffed to bits that I've got my ban overturned. I thought they were very harsh rules as I've got two kids and a family to provide for.

"I think the new rules are better for racing. The amount of times was never an issue with me, it was more the hefty bans and the financial penalties.

"Hopefully now we can put this behind us and concentrate on the good bits about racing.

"It seems for the last week or two racing has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

"A lot of jockeys came out and spoke very well. We love horses, we're just trying to earn a living and do our best for connections.

"We just need to move on now and put this behind us."