‘Livid’ Nicholls hits out at BHA over whip regulations
The British Horseracing Authority “need a bit of backbone” with regard to whip regulations, according to Paul Nicholls – who has described himself as “livid” with the timing of the new rules ahead of Cheltenham.
New rules and a tougher penalty structure for misuse of the whip were introduced on February 13, with 19 jockeys – including one of Nicholls’ stable riders Lorcan Williams – committing offences in the first week of implementation.
Williams was banned for 18 days for a winning ride at Haydock, with the suspension ruling him out of the Cheltenham Festival in its entirety.
Nicholls has voiced his concern about the timing of the new rules previously, but he described himself as “livid” and accused the BHA of “appeasing” critics of the sport rather standing up for participants.
Speaking during an exclusive Betfair Cheltenham Festival preview podcast aired on Friday evening, he said: “I’m actually disappointed with the way BHA have handled it – talk about shooting the industry in the foot.
“There are people in the BHA (who) need to take a real look at themselves. Are they doing the right thing for the industry? Because I think they are letting us down and I think this whole thing is wrong.
“We don’t want to appease people who don’t understand the game. We’ve got to stand up for ourselves and say ‘look, this is where we are’, it’s not a welfare issue. We need a bit of backbone – the BHA need a bit of backbone to stand up for us all the time instead of appeasing the wrong people.
The BHA need a bit of backbone to stand up for us all the time instead of appeasing to the wrong people
“There’s a lot of us trainers who have kept quiet really and are very, very annoyed with the way it’s been handled and that’s not just trainers, a lot of owners (are) upset about the whole thing and it will drive people away if they are not careful.
“I’ve been livid all along with the timing of it.
“Nothing seems to be simple with the BHA these days, which is sad because they’ve got a tough job to do. But I think honestly they do need to take a look at themselves and see what they are doing towards the industry and they need to be a little more proactive at getting things right.”
While a total of 20 bans were handed out in the first week, the number of referred rides during the second week under the new structure reduced to 12, with nine suspensions issued, two results pending and one ride found not in breach.
They have also been two disqualifications, the first being the James Moffatt-trained Lunar Discovery, with her rider Charlotte Jones banned for 14 days after striking the horse 11 times.
The whip review committee, which now assesses offences, disqualified a second horse earlier this week, as amateur rider James Turner was found to have used his whip five times above the permitted level of seven strikes when riding the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Mavis Pike to finish second at Newcastle last Saturday.
The changes to the whip regulations were the product of a consultation process, with the steering group including a variety of industry figures, including trainer John Gosden, broadcaster Nick Luck and jockeys Tom Scudamore and PJ McDonald.
Initial proposed changes included prohibiting using the whip in the forehand position, but that measure was rescinded in January following rider outcry, with harsher penalties and further a cut in permitted use of the whip instigated instead.
David Jones, chair of the Whip Consultation Steering Group, said: “The changes to the whip rules were the result of an exhaustive consultation process. The new rules are based on recommendations which were put to the BHA Board by a Steering Group which consisted of expertise drawn from across the racing industry and beyond, including prominent jockeys and trainers.
“They were unanimous in agreement that changes must be made to ensure more judicious use of the whip for encouragement, and improve the perception of whip use.
This is not about appeasing those who wish to see the sport banned, or attempting to convert them
“The changes include a reduction of one in the permitted number of uses of the whip to six in a flat race and seven in a jumps race, and increased penalties for offences. Jockeys consulted were in agreement that increased penalties were necessary.
“Similar changes were recently announced in France, where the thresholds for acceptable use are already lower than in British racing.
“This is not about appeasing those who wish to see the sport banned, or attempting to convert them. It is instead about ensuring that racing takes control of its own destiny, and ensuring that we safeguard the sport against changing perceptions amongst its future audiences.
“Racing has so much to be proud about. We all look forward to celebrating the magnificent horses and people and the wonderful stories that our sport produces in the coming weeks.”
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