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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

Ashdown Group: MS Dynamics AX Developer (SSRS/ SSAS) - global business

£425 per day: Ashdown Group: A small business with an established global offer...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Growing Law firm

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable law firm based in central London ...

Ashdown Group: Part time Network Support Analyst / Windows Systems Administrat

£30 per hour: Ashdown Group: An industry leading and well established business...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas