After a period of hibernation, the new whip rules resurfaced on the sport's emotional register yesterday when two jockeys, albeit at opposite extremes of the spectrum, picked up a staggering 74 days' suspension between them. One, Robert Cooper, was an amateur whose unfettered riding in a maiden hurdle at Uttoxeter on New Year's Day may be presumed to reflect his hunger for a first success in 12 years. But the other was Robert Winston, a senior professional whose 22-day ban at Southwell reopened wounds that had been responding to the healing efforts of riders and regulators over recent weeks.
Having been heavily criticised, the British Horseracing Authority had made significant revisions to the rules introduced in October. And jockeys had appeared to be reciprocating, however unhappily, by adjusting the habits of years. Winston, however, was found to have used his whip both excessively and in the forehand position, down the shoulder, in narrowly failing to get Zenarinda past an odds-on favourite, the pair well clear. As a second offence within 12 months, the stewards upgraded their punishment.
"I'm absolutely disgusted," Winston told the At The Races channel. "I get penalised heavily for trying to win a race, and trying to prevent an accident. And if I get done again, it will be a couple of months. It's an absolute joke. I've been riding 15 years and it feels an insult that I'm being told what to do."
Fearing a collision with Leonna Mayor's mount, Winston said that he had used the stick "three times in the forehand as a safety measure". He suggested these strikes should duly be disregarded, and that he had otherwise kept to the new limit of seven.
Cooper had been summoned to appear before the BHA disciplinary panel after hitting Elton Fox, a length winner, no fewer than 23 times – 15 more than is permitted in a race over jumps. Moreover, on a dozen occasions he was found to have used the whip without giving his mount time to respond. He was duly suspended for 52 days when amateur races are scheduled.
There was a corresponding show of emotion when Cooper contrived another rare winner at Fontwell only hours later. Passing the post well clear on Mortimers Cross, he threw his whip away, though the 34-year-old appeared to repent of an apparent inclination to end his career. "I'm not a jockey known for using the stick, and it's the first ban I've ever had," he said. "I've got a bit of a holiday now to think about things, but this horse is an absolute star, the sort that gives you the buzz to keep going."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Woolfall Sovereign (6.10 Wolverhampton) Has opened up a new frontier dropped to this trip, sharing a photo with a couple of decent operators round here last time.
Pampelonne (3.10 Huntingdon) Much better effort tried in cheekpieces for her first handicap at Bangor last month, looking sure to win when slithering over the last.
One to watch
Amroth Bay (Jennie Candlish) is well handicapped if only he can sort out his jumping, failing only narrowly to do so at Doncaster this week after his latest blunders.
Where the money's going
Decoy is 6-1 from 7-1 with the sponsors for the William Hill Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton tomorrow; Act Of Kalanisi is again in demand, now 9-1 from 10-1.