Further changes are to be made to the controversial whip rules in racing in time for the Cheltenham Festival.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) yesterday (Tuesday 21 February) announced revisions to the current system and the existing penalty structure.

The emphasis now will be on how the whip is used throughout the race – rather than focusing on a fixed amount of strokes.

If a jockey uses the whip eight times on the Flat, or nine over jumps – one more than the currently permitted – this will no longer be an automatic breach of rules. This becomes a “trigger point” for stewards to review the ride.

“Despite a number of changes to both the rule and the accompanying penalty structure, it is clear that while many objectives of the review are being met – and in particular those pertaining to horse welfare – a rule which polices the use of the whip based solely on a fixed number of strikes is fundamentally flawed,” said new BHA chief executive Paul Bittar.

Mr Bittar added the aim is to keep jockeys riding to a similar standard as they are now with the “significantly reduced use of the whip”, but with “added discretion and common sense applied by stewards”.

Tighter whip rules were brought in last year following a review of the use of the whip in racing to “achieve behavioural change and address improper and excessive whip use”. This followed complaints after high profile offences – including Jason Maguire aboard Grand National winner Ballabriggs.

But after outcry and threats of strikes from jockeys there have now been three further amendments to the rules.

Within the revised penalty structure cases of frequency one over will still warrant a two-day ban and two over will incur four day ban, rather than five days as at present. Repeat offences will not result in the penalty multiplying. A fifth “lower level” offence or a fourth “upper level” offence within six months will result in a referral to the Disciplinary Panel.

The Professional Jockeys Association welcomed the move, but the RSPCA said it was “extremely disappointed” and World Horse Welfare’s Roly Owers is also concerned.

The new rule will be ready for implementation in early March.