Jockeys stay their hands until tomorrow


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The Independent Online

The first blush-saving confirmation of the truce between Britain's jockeys and the British Horseracing Authority came yesterday morning at around 10.45, when the names of the runners at tomorrow's Flat meetings at Windsor and Pontefract were accompanied by those of their riders. But a strike by the reinsmen, who had threatened to down saddlestomorrow in protest over newly introduced rules about and penalties for whip misuse, remains an option.

Representatives of the riders' trade body, the Professional Jockeys' Association, and the sport's regulators will meet tomorrow to seek a solution to the problems prompted by the new rules regime, which was introduced after an investigation started five months before the unedifying finish to the Grand National threw professional concerns into stark public focus.

Jockeys themselves were part of the consultation process. The new rules limit the number of strikes per race to seven on the Flat and eight over jumps, including a maximum of five in the last furlong. Harsher penalties for breaches are also in force, including bans and loss of riding fee and prize-money percentages.

Christophe Soumillon yesterday brought to 12 the number of riders who have fallen foul of the new rules, which were introduced six days ago. While Soumillon left Ascot looking for a lawyer, on Thursday Richard Hughes handed in his licence at Kempton after being found guilty of a marginal offence for the second time, earning a ban that will rule him out of next month's prestigious and lucrative Breeders' Cup meeting.

The scheduling of tomorrow's talks put a sticking plaster over the rift between suits and players, but feeling in the weighing room remains high. "We have no problem at all with the limit to the number of hits," said Jimmy Fortune yesterday, "and we're all going out there to try to stick by the rules and do our best at the same time.

"But the final furlong thing is difficult. You pass the furlong markerin a flash and if you're in the middle of a bunch going at 40 miles an hour you can't judge it to the yard. We ride on instinct and if we're having to look around and then count then we simply won't be able to ride to our best.

"And it seems there is no discretion allowed for a little mistake, a small error in the heat of the moment. We'll see what the meeting on Monday brings but if we don't get satisfaction, then I wouldn't rule anything out."