Spotlight on stewards in new whip guidelines

The British Horseracing Authority’s latest revisions to the whip rules will be introduced today.

While retaining the existing threshold for a rider’s use of the whip on both the Flat and over jumps, stewards will now be able to exercise discretion when reviewing a jockey’s use of the whip throughout a race.

The trigger for stewards to review a rider’s use of the whip remains eight times or more for Flat races and nine times or more over jumps.

But rather than such use representing an automatic breach, and thus a suspension, the stewards will look at the ride and decide whether or not to hold an inquiry.

The new rules are to be established just seven days before the beginning of the Cheltenham Festival, the four-day centrepiece of the National Hunt calendar.

BHA chief executive Paul Bittar said: “The focus over the coming weeks should be on Cheltenham and Aintree, the climax to what has been a fantastic jumps season and then on the start of what promises to be another vintage year for Flat racing.”

When deciding whether to hold an inquiry, stewards must consider the rider’s use of the whip during the course of an entire race.

Particular attention will be given to its use in the closing stages and relevant factors such as the manner in which the whip was used, including the degree of force, and the purpose for which the whip was used.

Provided the overall manner in which the whip had been used was measured, stewards may choose to disregard occasions when the whip was used, for instance, to keep a horse in contention, to maintain a horse’s focus and concentration, and to correct a horse that is noticeably hanging.

Discussions with the BHA have also taken place with the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) to keep them abreast of the changes to the regulations and the accompanying penalty structure.

Revisions to the existing penalty structure came into effect on February 23.

One extra strike of the whip could still warrant a two-day ban, but two more may now incur a four-day, rather than a five-day, suspension.

Three times over could result in a seven-day suspension, with each extra usage adding two days to the penalty.

Repeat offences at both the lower and upper level of whip offences no longer result in the penalty multiplying. Each offence is now treated on its merits.

Those who break the rules frequently will, however, be referred to a disciplinary panel of the BHA.

The BHA said stewards will now have the ability to impose a fine on a rider between £200 and £10,000 in jumps races worth £20,000 or more, and Flat races worth £27,500 or more.

Stewards will consider the gravity of the offence and the rider’s earnings in that particular race when identifying the appropriate level of fine.

PJA chief executive Paul Struthers was encouraged by the changes, but has called for vigilance from both sides.

He said: “The PJA welcomes the further detail that the BHA has provided and supports the general principles that they have laid down.

“We will do what we can in the short time we have before the rule comes into force tomorrow to ensure jockeys are aware of what the revised approach to the rules means for them.

“It is important that the implementation of this new approach is monitored closely from both sides.

“However, I am sure stewards will welcome and are more than capable of applying this new approach as consistently as could reasonably be expected.

“Likewise, I am 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.

“Hopefully this can now be the start of everyone’s focus being on the sport itself, as opposed to the regulation of it.”


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