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."

A poster by Durham Constabulary
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine