31 January 2023

Cobden ‘ban’ for winning ride leads Nicholls to call for new whip rules to be delayed

31 January 2023

Multiple champion trainer Paul Nicholls has called for the introduction of the new whip rules to be delayed until after the major spring festivals.

Nicholls took to social media to condemn the proposed new regulations after it was suggested his stable jockey Harry Cobden would have picked up a 24-day ban for his winning ride on Il Ridoto at Cheltenham on Saturday.

The same was also said of Sean Bowen, currently second in the jockeys’ championship behind Brian Hughes, for his successful ride on Back On The Lash in the Cross Country Chase.

The new rules are due to come into force on February 13. Jockeys are currently riding within a ‘bedding-in’ period where the current regulations apply for sanctions purposes, but riders are being advised if they would have breached the new rules.

Nicholls tweeted: “Two fantastic top rides. How they can get bans is beyond me. Cobden excelled on Il Ridoto. This all needs postponing until after the spring festivals otherwise this is all going to be a disaster for the sport. For once common sense needs to prevail.”

Cobden confirmed on Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast that he had fallen foul of the new rule concerning using the whip over shoulder height.

He said: “I went into the stewards’ room and they froze the images of the replay where they thought my hand was over shoulder height on three of the hits.

“You could clearly see that I was in breach of the rule, my hand was ever so slightly over and I was told that I would get eight days for each hit. Because it was a class one race that it was why it was eight days rather than four, so I would have come out of the race with a 24-day ban.”

He went on: “I’ve always ridden like this, I’ve never been called in for over shoulder height before. Before Saturday I hadn’t ridden for 12 days, so had missed a lot of the bedding-in period.

“It’s difficult, we’re all trying but I think that rule definitely needs to be tweaked.

“We’re happy with the penalty structure, the numbers we are fine with, the only rule we have an issue with, and the one that keeps popping up, is the over shoulder height, so I think we need to change the wording or do something about it.

“I don’t think lessening the penalties will work as jockeys will still get banned. Somehow we need to change the wording of that rule. If it looks forceful then fair enough, but if you are riding a horse like I rode Il Ridoto, nobody sees anything wrong with that and I think it’s unfair to get 24 days for one ride.

“If your arm is straight up then that is not right, but if your hand is a couple of inches above and it doesn’t look out of place, I don’t think it should be a problem.”

The British Horseracing Authority, however, underlined the stewards are not responsible for the length of the bans as that will fall under the remit of the Whip Review Committee that will regularly meet on Tuesdays.

On its Twitter account, the said: “The BHA is aware of information being posted on social media speculating about potential ‘suspensions’ under the new whip rules. Please note this information is not accurate as the Whip Review Committee have not yet met this week to consider the rides in the period 16 – 29 Jan.

“Also, a reminder that no suspensions are being imposed at present. The purpose of the bedding-in period is to provide riders with information as to where adaptations to riding style might be needed ahead of full implementation of the rules on 13 Feb.”

A previously scheduled meeting will take place in the coming days between the BHA, Professional Jockeys Association and trainers and jockeys as part of the ongoing discussion surrounding the new rules, but not on the back of the fallout of last weekend’s racing.

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