Jockeys face tough whip rules


Jockeys will face stiffer penalties for use of the whip in new rules being introduced in two weeks' time following a 10-month review by the British Horseracing Authority.

Riders are being further restricted as to how many times they can use the whip in a race, as well as being handed out stiffer punishments for using it with excessive frequency.

Frequency guidelines have been removed and replaced by strict and easily understood limits on whip use.

The whip can only be used a maximum of seven times in a Flat race, and eight times in a jumps race (and only five times in the last furlong/after the last obstacle).

This is roughly half the amount of times a whip could be used previously before being in breach of the rules of racing.

Increased entry-point penalties are being implemented, with a five-day minimum suspension for not adhering to the frequency limits. The previous minimum penalty was a caution.

A jockey who incurs a whip ban of three days or more will forfeit his riding fee and prize-money percentage.

Penalties will increase for those who breach the rules on more than one occasion, and the second offence will be double that of a first offence.

The new guidelines and penalties will come into effect on Monday, October 10.

The BHA announced the changes on Tuesday morning after leading the review, compiled with input from recognised animal welfare bodies, including the RSPCA.

Use of the whip was the subject of much scrutiny when Jason Maguire was found to have struck Ballabriggs 17 times when winning the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree in April. Maguire was suspended five days.

Frankie Dettori was also banned nine days after he hit Rewilding 24 times inside the final two furlongs of the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot.

An outright ban on using the whip during races had come under discussion during the review.

Jockeys and trainers have welcomed the changes.

Dettori, arguably the most famous face in Flat racing, said: "I am not proud of having fallen foul of the whip rules in the past but I have never harmed a horse.

"These new rules are easy to understand which will help all jockeys ride within them.

"I accept these new rules are in the best interest of our great sport and it is right that they should be in place in time for Britain's richest ever raceday, Qipco British Champions Day (Ascot, October 8)."

Tony McCoy, champion jumps jockey for the last 16 years and reigning BBC Sports Personality of the Year, said: "The PJA (Professional Jockeys Association) has worked closely with the Authority on the BHA's Review and I hope my colleagues embrace the proposed changes as being in the best interest of the sport.

"I for one support the changes."

Sir Henry Cecil, 10-times champion Flat trainer, added: "The BHA has done an excellent, thorough job with their review and I welcome these changes, which will hopefully serve British Racing well."

Paul Nicholls, champion jumps trainer for the last six years, said: "Whilst I've been a critic of the rules in the past, nobody likes seeing misuse of the whip and I agree that the time had come when something had to be done.

"I am pleased that the BHA has made sensible and reasonable changes, and I am supportive of them."

The officials and specialists involved in implementing the changes are happy with the outcome.

BHA chairman Paul Roy said: "This has been an incredibly wide-ranging piece of work, resulting in a comprehensive Review that the Authority is very proud of.

"The Board approved every one of the recommendations and the message is loud and clear - we will continue to lead the way in responsible regulation and will make difficult decisions in the best interests of the sport and its participants."

Jamie Stier, director of raceday operations and regulation, said: "This has been a painstakingly thorough review and we would like to thank all those who took part.

"We accepted from the outset that it would be unrealistic to think that everyone would be pleased with whatever the final outcome was, but what was clear from virtually all those consulted was that the status quo could not be retained.

"The result is a clear set of rules and guidelines that lay down what is acceptable use of the whip, alongside a penalty structure which will act as an appropriate deterrent.

"We believe this will bring about real behavioural change without any detriment to the sport, which can only be good for British racing."

Professor Tim Morris, director of equine science and welfare for the BHA, said: "Use of the whip is, understandably, a sensitive issue.

"Safeguarding the welfare of racehorses is a priority for the Authority and we are committed to ensuring and enhancing horse welfare, taking an approach backed strongly by current animal welfare science.

"The thoroughness of this review, and the conclusions it reaches, are yet further demonstrations of this commitment."

The RSPCA have "cautiously welcomed" the new rules, though they are disappointed jockeys will be still be able to use the whip in the forehand position.

RSPCA equine consultant David Muir said: "We need to examine the report in detail, but at first sight it would appear the BHA has made some positive changes to which we give a cautious welcome.

"We will be monitoring their implementation to see if they have made a real difference to horse welfare.

"Five of the six key recommendations the RSPCA made to the BHA have been introduced, including a substantial reduction in the number of times jockeys can use the whip during a race.

"However, we are disappointed that the BHA has not changed the rules to prevent the use of the whip in the forehand.

"Also key are the changes to punishments jockeys receive if they break the rules, including much longer suspensions which increase with repeat offences, forfeiture of prize-money, and possible licensing implications.

"We hope these changes will mean that the few jockeys who have misused the whip will think twice in future."

The RSPCA hope that jockeys will obey the new rules.

"I sincerely hope that from now on jockeys will stay within the rules and keep their use of the whip to a minimum," Muir added.

"Otherwise they are setting a bad example and making the sport of horse racing appear cruel.

"We will closely monitor the effects of this review and continue to work actively with the BHA for better racehorse welfare."

Ballabriggs' trainer Donald McCain has also welcomed the news, adding: "My bugbear last season was the huge inconsistency between the north and the south - we've suffered as much as anyone.

"I've been involved in a couple of meetings and it was obvious something needed doing.

"I think it needed to be a sensible enough number (of whip strokes) so that people can't make mistakes.

"I'd like to think now that everything has been done in the best interests of racing and the horse."

Another animal welfare group involved in the consultation process has given its full support to the recommendations.

The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were particularly delighted to see a reduction in the number of times a jockey can use the whip and the penalties for its abuse.

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said, "As one of the animal welfare organisations consulted, we welcome the British Horse Racing Authority's review of the use of the whip in horse racing.

"The BHA listened to all interested parties and the review demonstrates a clear commitment to animal welfare which we applaud.

"In particular we support the reduction in the number of times the whip can be used and stiff penalties for its over-use."

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