22 February 2023

Twenty suspensions issued in first week of new whip rules

22 February 2023

A total of 20 riding suspensions were incurred during the first week under the British Horseracing Authority’s revised whip regulations, with one serious breach resulting in disqualification.

New rules came into force on February 13 following a bedding-in period when the new penalty structure was not in force but jockeys were advised of the punishment they would have received for offences.

Whip bans are no longer handed out on the day of the offence, with all breaches referred to the Whip Review Committee, which met on Tuesday to assess the cases.

Charlotte Jones was found to have used her whip 11 times when beaten a head into second on Jimmy Moffatt’s Lunar Discovery at Ayr last Tuesday.

As she breached the seven-stroke limit by four, with the Committee stating “none of the hits were clearly and unequivocally for safety purposes”, her mount was disqualified and Jones will be banned for 14 days (March 7-20 inclusive).

Lorcan Williams is one of the higher profile names to fall foul of the regulations and he will miss the Cheltenham Festival having been given an 18-day ban for his winning ride on Makin’yourmindup at Haydock on Saturday.

Williams, who is attached to champion trainer Paul Nicholls’ stable, had feared he would be severely punished after driving home Makin’yourmindup in a narrow finish to the Prestige Novices’ Hurdle.

He was adjudged to have used his whip twice over the allowed amount, but as the race was a Grade Two a harsher penalty was admonished, as befits the new structure.

His suspension begins on March 7 and runs to March 24. Williams was also fined £1,050.

The rider of the second in that race, Kevin Brogan, also used his whip above the permitted level, with his extra strike costing him an eight-day ban, as his suspensions in class one and two races are doubled.

Aidan Coleman, Gavin Sheehan and Derek Fox also featured on the suspension list, with the first two banned for four days and the latter for seven, while Luke Scott got 14 days for his ride aboard Progressive at Wetherby.

Harry Kimber picked up two separate bans, meaning 19 individual riders broke the rules, with three offences occurring in the same conditional jockeys’ hurdle at Newcastle on February 16.

Breaches were not limited to overuse, with some riders – including Coleman – judged to have not given their mounts time to respond while others were found to have used the whip with the arm above shoulder height.

The new rules were introduced following a consultation process, with a late revision made in January when the original intended directive ruling out using the whip in the forehand was reversed in favour of a reduced amount of strikes and tougher penalty structure.

Following the issuing of suspensions, David Jones, chair of the Whip Consultation Steering Group, said: “The changes to the whip rules implemented last week 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.

“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.”

There is simply no excuse for using the whip four or more times above the permitted level

Brant Dunshea, the BHA’s chief regulatory officer, added: “Jockeys have had more than four weeks to adapt to the new rules through the bedding-in period. As the jockeys themselves have stated, it is now up to them to ensure that they ride within the new rules.”

Dunshea described disqualification as “the ultimate deterrent for overuse of the whip” and hopes the early instance “sends a clear message” to riders.

He said: “There is simply no excuse for using the whip four or more times above the permitted level. It was always likely that the disqualification rule would need to be invoked in the early stages of the implementation of the new rules.

“We hope that this sends a clear message to all jockeys and reinforces this deterrent effect.”

Connections of Lunar Discovery later announced they would not be appealing the disqualification.

A statement issued through the National Trainers Federation on behalf of trainer James Moffatt, owners Kevin and Anne Glastonbury and Jones said: “It is obviously very disappointing and upsetting for all of us here to see that Lunar Discovery was disqualified from her second-placed finish last week. 

“However, it was understood by the sport that in tightening up the rules and penalties around whip use, we would see a reduced level of discretion as to what constituted an offence.

“On this basis, despite being firmly of the view that there was no detrimental impact at all on our horse, we are accepting of the outcome that the Review panel has reached. Lunar Discovery was in excellent health after her race and will be ready to go again in due course, where she will continue to be ridden by Charlotte, after she has served her first ever whip ban.”

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