BHA retreats on whip penalties

 

Perhaps now, just in time, the poisoned atmosphere between jockeys and regulators may begin to dissipate. Having already made one lavish admission of misjudgement, the British Horseracing Authority yesterday announced another series of amendments to the draconian new whip regulations introduced with such fanfare barely a month ago. On the eve of the biggest meeting of the jumps season so far, the regulators were plainly hoping to douse the blaze of controversy that has so blackened the sport – even as they sought to broadcast its noblest priorities to the world at large.

Approaching the next three afternoons at Cheltenham, jockeys as seasoned as Ruby Walsh and Tony McCoy found themselves threatened with an automatic 10-day ban for even the most marginal transgression under the new whip rules, as a result of a solitary, borderline, failure to transform overnight the habits and skills that have elevated them among the all-time greats.

Now, however, the gravest of their outstanding grievances has been redressed. Borderline offences will henceforth be dealt with more proportionately, with an automatic five-day suspension for one slap beyond the new limit of seven on the Flat, and eight over jumps, reduced to two days. Moreover marginal breaches will no longer cause jockeys to miss Group or Grade One races. Both Walsh and McCoy were among those seasoned and responsible riders to have miscalculated where they stood in relation to the letter of the new law, and local stewards will be relieved that they are now to have case-by-case discretion. Enforced with strict liability, even a steering tap with the hands on the reins had hitherto been treated as an all-out "strike".

These latest revisions compound a first climbdown three weeks ago. That was triggered when Christophe Soumillon briefly forfeited more than £50,000 for a highly polished ride in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot.

All in all, the BHA has implicitly acknowledged that the whole business has been grossly mishandled. In fairness, however, jockeys have meanwhile been obliged to demonstrate that races can often be won and lost in more aesthetically pleasing fashion within the new rules – and tough penalties have been retained for those who flagrantly disregard them. For instance, a jockey who exceeds the limit by three will still forfeit his prize-money, and serve a seven-day ban.

"Jockeys are making a real and conscious effort to ride within the new rules," the BHA noted in a statement. "Breaches for improper use have fallen by 46 per cent when compared with the same period last year. While there has been an increase in offences for use of the whip with excessive frequency, the overwhelming majority of [cases have been] one and two uses over the new limits. Furthermore, offences for interference and careless riding have decreased by 56 per cent compared to the same period in 2010, all of which provides evidence of the behavioural change which was a key objective."

The Professional Jockeys' Association welcomed yesterday's amendments only as "a step in the right direction", but promised continued engagement in the consultations that have slowly defused the crisis.

The one guarantee is that those bystanders whose curiosity has been exhausted by the saga will be gratified that due attention may now be reserved for horses like Cue Card and Grands Crus. To that extent, it seems even more lamentable that their showdown today should elude terrestrial television coverage.

Grands Crus has evidently schooled well in search of sanctuary from Big Buck's, having beaten all bar the remorseless champion over hurdles last spring, while Cue Card made an impeccable start over fences at Chepstow last month, thrashing two subsequent winners.

Not that this is a mere match, with Champion Court among those with the ability to assert a new pecking order in a new discipline. Let us just hope that these horses are not alone in making a fresh start today.

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Crack Away Jack (1.45 Cheltenham) Fourth in a Champion Hurdle in his youth and, having lost his way somewhat since switching to fences, looks potentially well treated on his first start for the champion trainer.

Next best

Garde Champetre (2.20 Cheltenham) Getting on now but remains so proficient over this exotic track that he demands loyalty, not least on such favourable terms, after a pipe-opener over hurdles at Punchestown last month.

One to watch

Mass Rally (Michael Dods) suggested he can contribute to his stable's revival when finishing best out of midfield at Doncaster on Saturday, and is proven on the all-weather.

Where the money's going

Somersby is 14-1 from 20-1 with Paddy Power for the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Direct Mail Machine Operative

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an i...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Day In a Page

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US