The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is planning further consultation on the subject of suspensions incurred in Group/Grade One races, although the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) has warned against hurrying any increase in the severity of penalties.
Data indicates a 9% drop in whip offences last year compared to 2014, with just 0.61% of rides now incurring a suspension.
This equated to a total decrease of 48% in the number of offences when compared to 2010, the last full year before the revised whip rules were introduced, despite the thresholds for use having been effectively halved.
A 40% reduction in cases of interference compared to 2010, and a year-on-year decrease of around a third in offences incurring a suspension of seven days or more has also been revealed by the data.
However, the number of winning rides incurring a suspension in races at the highest level increased from five to 10 of the 72 races run in 2015, alongside an overall increase in the number of offences committed in such races.
A number of high-profile suspensions have made the headlines in recent weeks, most notably Paddy Brennan’s 11-day ban after his winning ride on Cue Card in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day.
Jamie Stier, director of raceday operations and regulation for the BHA, said: “One area of concern that arises from the 2015 data is the increased frequency of offences in races at the top level.
“We have committed to a further analysis of this data and through the normal annual process will be consulting with the Professional Jockeys Association to ensure that the Rules and penalty structure provide a sufficient deterrent, while remaining fair and proportionate.”
PJA chief executive Paul Struthers feels it would be unwise to make major changes based on the data from one season. He said: “We welcome the BHA’s announcement that breaches of the whip rules are down yet again year-on-year, and have reduced by almost 50% since 2010, despite the permitted level of usage halving in that period.
“Of course we understand that the rise in suspensions incurred in Group and Grade One races is something the BHA are keen to have a closer look at, but our view is that a one-year increase is no justification in itself to increase an already harsh penalty regime.”
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