Stewards given whip hand with new guidelines

 

Not for the first time, new guidelines governing use of the whip were rushed through yesterday with one of British racing's showcase occasions specifically in mind. It would be disappointing, however, if regulating in haste on this occasion caused quite so much repenting at leisure.

With next week's Cheltenham Festival in mind, the British Horseracing Authority had already completed a humiliating series of amendments to controversial rules introduced just before the inaugural British Champions Day at Ascot last October. Where jockeys had previously triggered an automatic infringement by using the whip more than seven times on the Flat (or eight, over jumps), stewards would be asked to view that tally merely as the prompt for a possible inquiry, thereafter to use their discretion. Yesterday the BHA published a protocol for doing so, while rightly stressing that jockeys should not mistake it as anything resembling a carte blanche.

Acknowledging "that the incentive to breach the rules is greater in more valuable races", the BHA has authorised stewards to fine jockeys anywhere between £200 and £10,000, depending on the gravity of the offence and the earnings at stake, in jump races worth more than £20,000, and Flat races of more than £27,500.

The obvious concern is that different panels of stewards may reach inconsistent conclusions. Stewards will be asked to consider a ride in the round, using such nebulous gauges as force, frequency and efficacy. If satisfied that the whip has been used in suitably "measured" fashion, stewards may choose to disregard its use in certain, rather more specific scenarios. These include slaps administered to keep a horse in contention "prior to what would be considered the closing stages"; to maintain focus and concentration; to correct a horse from hanging, or running down an obstacle.

A rider found to have used his whip, without exculpation, once over the permitted level will be suspended for two days; the ban will be extended with each slap thereafter. Repeat offenders will be referred for lengthy suspension, albeit things will be going badly awry if any contrive a fifth offence in six months.

Irish riders, bemused by the chaos in Britain since October, will be made familiar with the regime as it now stands before the Festival. Paul Bittar, the new BHA chief executive who has wasted no time in dismantling the work (and arguably the reputations) of fellow directors, trusts the whip will no longer distract from the glories of Cheltenham and Aintree.

"It is vital our sport's customers and viewers have confidence that the welfare of racehorses is not being put at risk by a rider's use of the whip," he said. "I am confident in our ability as a sport to manage welfare issues and believe that taking account of the design, together with the lower thresholds for use of the whip, we have effectively removed the potential for use of the whip to be a welfare problem.

"With everyone in racing, we at the BHA have a role to play in increasing understanding of why the energy-absorbing whip should be considered an acceptable and important tool of a jockey's trade. Communication is key to this, but ultimately the level of public confidence will depend on the jockeys abiding by the rules."

This last point is absolutely critical. Jamie Stier, as director of raceday operations and regulation, will be working with jockeys and stewards in implementing the new regulations. Stier, who took much of the flak when the regulations were originally changed in October, emphasised: "It is important riders do not misinterpret the ability of stewards to exercise discretion as a reason to use their whip more than they do at present. The objective is to maintain the improved standards of riding which have resulted from the significant efforts made by riders to abide by the reduction in threshold levels regarding use of the whip, while applying discretion where warranted."

Paul Struthers, chief executive of the Professional Jockeys' Association, declared himself "very confident that jockeys do not see this as simply an increase in how often they can use the whip, but a sensible approach to a matter that cannot reasonably and fairly be regulated by strict and arbitrary limits".

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap: City Ground (3.50 Newcastle)

Has proved very disappointing over hurdles this season but is plunging down the weights as a result and hinted at a revival in a recent spin on the Flat.

Next best: Trustan Times (4.50 Newcastle)

Progressive young chaser on a fair mark for the switch to handicaps. Unlucky at Market Rasen last time, jumping well and bang there when badly hampered.

One to watch: Lyreen Legend's Grade Two win at Thurles last week advertised the Cheltenham prospects of Boston Bob (Willie Mullins), who had beaten him impressively at Leopardstown and is engaged in both the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett.

Where the money's going: Street Entertainer is 12-1 from 25-1 with William Hill for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham next week.

 

Cheltenham countdown: 7

My top fancy for the Festival - Paul Nicholls, champion trainer: "Our best chance is Big Buck's, but the best value could be Sonofvic. He's unbeaten over hurdles and was only two lengths behind Grand Crus in his first chase. He then jumped appallingly next time, and will be back over hurdles in the Pertemps Final."

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?