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."

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
Arts and Entertainment
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
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: Senior SEO Manager - £30,000 - Manchester City Centre

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This forward-thinking agency works with ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Field Sales - OTE £30,000

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a rapidly expanding offi...

Recruitment Genius: HVAC Project Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful candidate will b...

Recruitment Genius: Key Accounts Administrator - Fixed Term

£13500 - £14500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting new opportunity has...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game