Mixed response to BHA whip amendments

OFFICIALS at the Professional Jockeys’ Association gave a guarded welcome to amendments to the new whip rules announced by the British Horseracing Authority yesterday.

However, chief executive Kevin Darley said in a statement that riders retain “serious concerns about the level of penalties for minor infringements of the rules”.

Among the changes are the removal of the five-hit rule inside the final furlong/after the last obstacle. Jockeys have struggled to come to terms with the guidelines since their introduction last week, which allow no more than seven hits in a flat race and eight over jumps.

While that number remains the same, the BHA have scrapped the rule which state jockeys are allowed to use their whip no more than five times inside the final furlong, or after the final obstacle in National Hunt races.

Riders will now not lose their riding fee if suspended for a whip offence.

They will also only lose their percentage of prize-money if their offence earns a ban of seven days or more, rather than the three days the rules originally stated.

Darley said: “The PJA is pleased that the BHA has recognised that the new rules over the use of the whip did require amendments, especially in regard to the limitations on the use the whip in the final furlong and after the last fence in Flat and jumps racing respectively, as well as in regard to the forfeiting of riding fees.

“There are still serious concerns about the level of penalties for minor infringements of the rules.

“A jockey could still be in breach of the rules and face a heavy penalty for using the whip in the best interests of safety and horsemanship.”

The adjusted rules came into force for all race meetings yesterday. The move means Christophe Soumillon will now receive the substantial percentage of the prize-money for winning the Qipco Champion Stakes on Cirrus Des Aigles at Ascot last Saturday. He had been stripped of £52,000 and suspended five days.

Soumillon had appealed against the ban, and in a statement said: “I’m delighted at the news, not only for myself but for all the UK jockeys in particular, and horse racing in general. Well done to the BHA for listening and turning things around, today is a big day.”

Richard Hughes returned to race-riding at Newbury yesterday, having not ridden since pledging to hand in his licence after picking up a second ban in a matter of days at Kempton on October 13.

Speaking after winning on his first ride back, he said: ““My beef with the rules was about five strikes after the furlong pole so I’m happy about that, but I don’t think much else has changed.

“It’s a good move forward but the penalties are very high, as if you make a clerical misjudgement with eight strikes instead of seven, you get a five-day ban, and then a 10-day ban.”

Asked if he regretted his actions, he said: “No, I stand on my beliefs and I think the rule was wrong. I’m back today glad they’ve changed them and back riding winners.”

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