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New Whip Rules Anger Jockey Richard Hughes, Whip Racing World into a Frenzy

Posted on the 14 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Ascot 2005

The new whip ban might be a game-changer at Ascot's Champion's Day tomorrow. Photo Credit: Steve Sawyer

Top jockey Richard Hughes handed in his riding license midway through the evening meeting at Kempton on Thursday in protest at the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) new whip rules that were implemented four days ago, The Racing Post reported. He had just been given a 10-day ban for breaking the rules for the second time since they were implemented earlier this week. He confirmed that he will miss the inaugural QIPCO Champions’ Day at Ascot tomorrow at which he was set to ride every race on the card and the US Breeder’s Cup in Kentucky on November the 4th and 5th.

The new rules state that a jockey is allowed to strike a horse with a whip no more than seven times in total and only five in the final furlong in a flat race; previously, a jockey had been allowed 14 cracks of the whip. The new rules have provoked fury in the weighing room. Besides Hughes’s ban there have been bans for Kieran Fox and jump jockey Harry Skelton. A similar set of constraints has been imposed on jump races by the BHA, with jockeys limited to eight strokes a race with five in the run-in.

The rules have prompted the Professional Jockey’s Association to submit a complaint to the BHA and Paul Roy, BHA Chairman has ordered a review of the rules “as soon as possible”, garnering criticism in the print edition of The Racing Post for “losing its nerve so quickly.” It seems most people in the racing world have publically taken sides over the new rules — a few defended the BHA, but many hold more nuanced views on the new rules — here’s the pick of the comment so far:

Seven strikes is fair, but the limit in the final furlong is excessive. Hughes himself has spoken out against the rules, asking for the BHA to simplify them. He complained to the satellite channel Racing UK that the BHA “set a trap for us” in stipulating only five hits in the final furlong.

Have patience — give the jockeys some time to learn. Veteran jockey Frankie Dettori told Sky Sports that he thought the rules were a good idea ad that they would improve the image of racing, but that jockeys are “going to need time to adjust to the new rules. I think a longer bedding in period would have been good, but the rules are there now.”

The BHA has shot itself in the foot. Champion’s Day was supposed to showcase British racing, but “instead the whip debate rages again, racing’s incurable parasite rearing its ugly head again” noted former jockey Marcus Armytage in The Daily Telegraph. He said the new rules made for more enjoyable race-viewing, but the brouhaha caused might not be worth the fight.

Punishment for jockeys is over-harsh. Reporting for The Guardian, Greg Wood pointed out that, because of the amount of prize money available for the winner of the QIPCO Champion Stakes tomorrow (£737,230), jockeys could be subjected to fines of about £54,000 for an infringement of the new rules, more than the current highest recorded penalty, a £40,000 fine imposed on Nicky Henderson for doping in 2009.

Richard Hughes winning the 2011 Queen Anne stakes at Royal Ascot on Canford Cliffs:

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