Hughes back with a bang as BHA retreats on whips

Humiliating climbdown by regulator sees bans set aside under revised rules, but rancour still lingers

Though their mood seemed increasingly militant last night, all jockeys might do well to confine their dissent to the sort of gesture made by the one who rode the first winner at Newbury yesterday.

Nicely combining elements of triumph, angst and relief, Richard Hughes brandished his whip towards the stands as he passed the post. As it happens, he had barely needed it. Indeed, as though illustrating the protests of so many riders over the previous 11 days, he used it primarily to steer and straighten his mount. But the very fact that Hughes was here at all, rather than on the golf course as scheduled, showed that the outstanding concerns of his peers no longer warrant any reckless escalation of the whip debate.

The rancour stoked so heedlessly by the British Horseracing Authority has by no means abated, despite amendments yesterday to the contentious new whip rules. Most jockeys canvassed at Newbury were understood to favour some kind of strike action, and soundings continued across the profession overnight. But they should recognise that the regulators, in acceding to so many of their demands, have humiliated themselves as far as they ever will.

In what should be credited as an overdue show of character, the BHA had earlier redressed several of the more egregious difficulties arising from the radical new whip regime introduced the previous week. Sadly, some of its other follies can never be redeemed – primarily the crass timing of untested changes, just five days before the sport's new showcase meeting, and the festering atmosphere of recrimination provoked by its clumsiest provisions. But at least the BHA has now rescinded the most flagrant injustices, notably the suspension that would have prevented Hughes riding Strong Suit at the Breeders' Cup, and the bewildering forfeiture of the biggest prize ever won by a jockey on British soil. Christophe Soumillon can now bank the £54,000 due for what any sensible witness could only acknowledge as an exemplary ride on Cirrus Des Aigles at Ascot last Saturday.

Neither Soumillon nor Hughes even reached the prescribed Flat-race limit of seven strikes, instead being trapped by the clause restricting them to five inside the furlong pole. Their punishment failed absurdly to fit the putative crime. Hughes has long been admired as the most artistic and sympathetic of horsemen, and within four days had twice been snared by marginal misjudgement in the heat of battle. He was so disgusted that he handed in his licence on the spot, vowing not to ride again until the rules were changed. Three hours after the BHA detailed the revisions, Hughes was at Newbury.

Critically, the division of the maximum use either side of the furlong pole has now been abandoned. Prize-money, moreover, will only be forfeited in those cases where a jockey has so palpably exceeded his limit – in effect, by two extra strokes – that he receives a punishment of seven days, rather than five.

Many riders remain deeply aggrieved, but obstinately proceeding with a walkout would squander overnight the sort of sympathy Hughes had won with his principled stand. As the BHA picks over the rubble of its reputation, it might well comfort itself that a proper compromise means that nobody is entirely happy. Even welfare organisations as responsible as the RSPCA admitted "deep concern" that jockeys might not have properly grasped the dangers of public distaste for the whip.

The schisms of the past few days will not heal quickly. Ultimately, however, all sides must make common cause on behalf of the sport and its defining glory – not the rider, but the animal beneath.

At least now more on the Clapham omnibus may understand that science detects no welfare issue in the whip, and that impetus from the foam-padded design is sooner a matter of sound than impact. Fresh challenges await jump jockeys, trying to keep mounts focused in heavy ground, but the bottom line is that many races, even in a climate poisoned by resentment, now have a more universally pleasing aspect. The time has surely come to speak more softly – but there is no need for the big stick.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A daily miscellany of general election facts, figures, trivia and traditions
voicesThere's still time for someone to do something to make us care
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, goes back to his family's Sicilian roots in the first 'Godfather' film
Kim Kardashian speaks on the Today show about her step-father's transition
Wenger and Mourinho square-up to each other earlier this season
sportAll the action from today's Premier League, including Everton vs Man Utd and Chelsea vs Arsenal
Tepper had a stunningly successful career as a songwriter
Arts and Entertainment
Len Blavatnik
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions