Two jockeys at opposite ends of the experience and expertise spectrum became the first to fall foul of strict new rules, introduced yesterday, governing the use of the whip during races. Senior rider Richard Hughes and apprentice Kieren Fox both picked up bans after the running of the Bathwick Tyres Handicap at Salisbury.
Fox, who won the 10-furlong contest by a short-head on Orthodox Lad, was punished the harder with a 15-day suspension after hitting his mount 11 times, including seven times in the final furlong. Hughes, who struck third-placed Swift Blade six times from the furlong pole, will be off for five days.
The new rules, brought in after year-long consultations by the British Horseracing Authority, state that a Flat jockey can hit his or her mount a maximum of seven times in the course of a race, and five times through the final furlong. As well as their bans, Fox and Hughes will forfeit their riding fees (£109.10) and prize-money percentage.
There has been unease in the weighing room about the tightening up of the whip rules, the result of a desire by the sport's authorities to appease public perceptions, and about the harsher penalties that have been attached.
It is arguable that the well-backed 15-2 shot Orthodox Lad – who rallied after being headed and was all out at the line to hold second-placed Oetzi – would not have secured his £2,264.15 first prize but for the 3lb claimer Fox's pressure; the runner-up's rider Harry Bentley, another apprentice, used his whip only four times. Swift Blade, three-quarters of a length adrift, hung right-handed in the finish.
"I'll have to go back to school to learn how to count," Hughes said. "I knew exactly what I was doing and I was aware, I hit him down the neck for correction matters, nothing else. I rubbed him once before and he was leaning in, so I flicked him one down the neck, purely to keep him straight.
"They said you aren't allowed to use your stick as correction and I was under the impression you were allowed to do that. If I'd let him bump the other horse, I'd have got two days. I feel a bit hard done by, as I thought it was a corrective measure and nothing else, but they said six is six."
Orthodox Lad's race was the only one yesterday – there were seven others at Salisbury and 16 in all at Yarmouth and Windsor – to provoke action from stewards. Jump jockeys, who are allowed to use the whip up to eight times in a race, will be riding under the new rules for the first time at Huntingdon today.
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