Some of the world's most accomplished horsemen yesterday sat around a table with the British Horseracing Authority, whose drastic revision of the whip rules a week previously had ignited a sudden firestorm in the sport. But the submissions of Tony McCoy, Frankie Dettori and others seemed to cause either division or uncertainty within the regulators' own ranks. Five hours after their departure, the BHA confined itself to a statement that it would not be rushed into any hasty action, but promised that a review would be concluded by the end of the week.
McCoy and Dettori joined Richard Hughes and Ryan Moore in accompanying Kevin Darley, chief executive of the Professional Jockeys' Association, to a BHA board meeting. Hughes is refusing to ride under the new regime, having been caught out twice in four days by radical toughening in the definition and punishment of whip offences. They gave first-hand accounts of the difficulties experienced over the past week, notably in the division of the maximum number of seven slaps – on the Flat – either side of the furlong pole, and their unhappiness with the severity of the new penalties. Both these grievances had been united in astounding fashion at Ascot on Saturday when Christophe Soumillon was obliged to forfeit the biggest prize ever won by a jockey on British soil, exceeding £50,000, without even reaching the prescribed limit of seven slaps. Hughes, likewise, has been banned from the Breeders' Cup because he used the whip a sixth time inside the final furlong.
Jockeys had been planning a walkout at Pontefract and Windsor yesterday but agreed to defer any strike after being invited to London to make their case. The BHA's eventual response essentially bought time, though was careful to thank the PJA for a "constructive" approach. It stressed that the review of the rules had taken 10 months, involving widespread consultation across the sport and beyond, including animal welfare groups. "The board has today reiterated its endorsement of the principles behind the review," the statement said. "The new rules adopted by the authority received widespread support across the industry. Any change to regulations must be carefully considered and subject to due process. This means that appropriate evidence needs to be reviewed and there will need to be engagement with other relevant parties. The board has directed the review group to undertake this process and report back by no later than the end of the week. Until any changes are made, the current rules will continue to apply."
The difficulties being experienced by even the most seasoned riders had been illustrated when Joe Fanning was given a five-day suspension for using his whip a sixth time inside the last when second on Dubious Escapade at Pontefract. Fanning, who evidently became the latest to misjudge the furlong pole, had been given just two whip bans over the previous two decades. Micky Fenton and Adrian Nicholls were other experienced riders suspended at the same meeting, for seven and five days respectively, while the apprentice Kieren Fox compounded his 15-day ban on the first day of the new regime with another 10 days for his ride on Push Me, second at Windsor.
Darley responded to the BHA statement last night. "We will await the authority's response to the very realistic and sensible proposals the jockeys made today," he said. "However, time is pressing and amendments to the new rules that jockeys believe are workable need to be adopted very soon. The current situation cannot continue, and we have made that clear to the BHA."
Some day, perhaps, it may turn out that the day's most significant development was quietly disclosed in a press release from Sheikh Mohammed's Darley breeding empire. Expectations for horseracing in China veer wildly according to perceived trends in the state's future policy, but bloodlines will now be introduced by two young Darley stallions in 2012. Jalil, a son of Storm Cat, will stand in Beijing; Sousa, a Grade One winner in Australia by Galileo, is off to Inner Mongolia.
Chris McGrath's Nap Reggie Perrin (Lingfield 2.30)
Had to challenge from the rear when drawn wide last time and very nearly pulled it off, again looking better than the rating he earned in maidens.
Next best Aniseed (Yarmouth 1.50)
Well-bred filly who belied her inexperience in a hot sales race last time.
One to watch Robin Hoods Bay (Ed Vaughan) is still progressing, judged on his effort in a good handicap at Kempton last week, almost down on the home turn before claiming second.Reuse content