Richard Hughes lashes out over whip rules

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The Independent Online

Richard Hughes insists there was no consultation between the British Horseracing Authority and riders over the exact details of the new whip rules.

Hughes pledged last night to relinquish his riding licence after falling foul of the new regulations for the second time since their implementation on Monday.

The guidelines state a Flat rider can only hit a horse seven times with the whip, with just five of those strikes allowed inside the final furlong. Jockeys found in breach also forfeit their riding fee and any percentage of prize-money won.

Hughes was banned for five days after being found guilty of hitting his horse six times in the final furlong at Salisbury on Monday and he was suspended for a further 10 days after committing the same offence at Kempton.

However, Hughes is adamant the BHA did not speak with jockeys before setting down the finer points of the rules.

"We all agreed to cut down on the number but then they said you're only allowed five in the last furlong. Nothing had come out about that," Hughes told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"There was no consultation with the (Professional) Jockeys Association as to what the plans were going to be. They brought it out and for a couple of weeks we tried to practice before the rules came in.

"We went to the BHA and said 'listen, this rule is going to have to be changed a bit' and they just stuck their head in the sand and said 'no we're not changing, get on with'."

While Hughes does not disagree with the intention of making jockeys use the whip less, he feels the penalty structure is unjustly harsh.

"The penalties are horrendous. You get five days for the first race, 10 days for the second and 30 days for the third time," he explained.

"If someone gives away a foul in a game of football, they don't lose the next five matches. They give a free kick away and get on with it.

"The jockeys are 100% behind the rules to cut down on the whip. We're not stupid, we understand the public perception.

"They've cut it down to seven and I've hit my horse six times twice and I've got 15 days."

Hughes has been one of the most vociferous critics of the new rules but he is keen not to be seen as the central figure in the dispute.

He added: "I'm certainly not (setting myself up as a ringleader). I've strictly done this myself, it's my own thinking. I hope I'm not branded as a leader in all this - it's my own decision.

"It was only a matter of time (before something happened)."

Champion jumps trainer Paul Nicholls has also waded into the debate, calling for the BHA to scrap the new guidelines.

Nicholls tweeted: "Oh my god what a mess. Old whip rules should be re instated with immediate effect until a sensible compromise can be reached."

Hughes decision to quit came less than 48 hours before the richest raceday in British history, the Qipco-sponsored Champions Day at Ascot.

He was due to ride Casamento for Godolphin in the feature race, the Champion Stakes, and will now be replaced by Mickael Barzalona while his ride on Dick Turpin in the QEII Stakes has gone to Christophe Soumillon.