The growing crisis over the new whip rules reached a heartbreaking and sensational nadir last night when Richard Hughes threatened to end a brilliant career unless the British Horseracing Authority heeded the rising fury of riders. There are now growing fears of some kind of strike or protest by jockeys at the new Champions Day meeting at Ascot tomorrow.
Hughes pledged to relinquish his licence with immediate effect after picking up a ban at Kempton – his second since a controversial toughening in the definition and punishment of whip offences was introduced on Monday. As a second transgression, his riding of More Than Words, beaten a neck in a maiden, earned him a 10-day suspension to add to the five days he picked up at Salisbury on Monday. As things stand, he will miss the ride on Strong Suit at the Breeders' Cup.
"I've handed my licence in until further notice," Hughes told Racing UK. "I've been trying to obey the rules this week. I don't think I can do my owners justice any more. I gave [this filly] a couple of slaps when she needed them, but I am not a whip jockey. Both times I've been done I've hit them six times. I've got a 15-day ban because of it, and miss the Breeders' Cup. What about the owner of Strong Suit? He's a tricky horse and you have to know how to ride him. Until the rules are resolved I won't be riding. I'd rather retire. I can't ride horses like this. It's like telling Lionel Messi he can't use his left foot."
He later expanded the football analogy. "I've been riding horses since 1988 and they've brought this rule in overnight and expect you to change," he told Sky Sports News. "It'd be the same as a guy committing a foul and missing his next five games, and getting a week's wages taken off him. The penalties are barbaric. Maybe if they have a review of the rules, I'll have a rethink."
The sport's regulatory body has been furiously criticised for bringing in such radical change so close to its new showcase meeting, and there have been rumours that riders would choose the same platform to make a public stand. Its chairman, Paul Roy, issued a statement promising to reconvene the working group responsible for the new rules once submissions had been received from the Professional Jockeys' Association. But it now appears only a suspension of the new rules will take the heat out of the situation.
Meanwhile, it is understood Ryan Moore has confirmed his intention to leave Sir Michael Stoute to ride as stable jockey to Aidan O'Brien next season.
Chris McGrath's nap Rock Of Deauville (5.40 Cheltenham) Looked poised to score readily when falling at Ascot on his final start in the spring, and certainly has more ability than his present rating.
For Non Stop (2.45 Cheltenham) Point-to-point winner in his younger days and could prove one of the brighter chasing prospects. Goes well fresh.
One to watch
Mr Churchill (Mahmood Al Zarooni) is eligible for handicaps, having emerged from well off the pace to claim third at Goodwood on Sunday, and promises more with distance.
Where the money's going
Dream Ahead has been introduced at 4-1 by Coral for the Breeders' Cup Mile.