British racing’s new whip rules will come into play with a soft launch in January and will be fully enforceable in jump racing ahead of next year’s Cheltenham Festival.
These include disqualification for the most serious offences (where the whip is used four or more times above the permitted level), backhand use only, increased penalties and development of a whip review committee (news, 21 July).
The introduction of the new rules will be staggered. They will be first introduced in jump racing from 9 January with a four-week “bedding-in” period. This means jockeys will be asked to comply with the new regulations, but will not be subject to the new sanctions for breaking them until 6 February.
On the Flat, the bedding-in process will start on 27 February, with full implementation from 27 March – the start of the week in which the Flat turf season starts.
“While the initial proposals were made following an extensive consultation process, it was important that further, detailed discussions take place with those most affected by the proposals,” said David Jones, British Horseracing Authority (BHA) board member and chairman of the whip consultation steering group
“I am pleased, therefore, that sensible adjustments have been made where necessary, while the overall package of measures has been approved and will now go forward to implementation.
“This whole process, from start to finish, has always been about listening to the views of all our audiences and making decisions which best preserve the perception of our sport and the welfare of our horses, while also recognising the role that the padded whip plays in safe and fair race riding.”
The BHA’s reasoning behind the staggered approach is to make allowance for the number of Flat jockeys riding abroad over the winter. And it will also allow the implementation to be assessed in National Hunt before it is rolled out on the Flat ahead of the turf season.
The 20 revised whip rules and penalties were initially proposed by a whip consultation steering group, made up of people from across the industry including jockeys and trainers. These were approved by the BHA board in the summer, following consultation.
They then went through a round of technical discussions, resulting in a couple of adjustments.
It’s been clarified that Flat jockeys will be allowed to use the jump version of the whip, following concerns raised by some jockeys over using the whip in the backhand-only position and the risk of landing in the wrong place. Riders in Flat races will be allowed to use the jump version of the whip, which has a longer padded section, should they wish.
Decisions on disqualifications for whip offences will now be made by the whip review committee, away from the raceday, and will therefore not affect the outcome of a race for betting purposes. This follows concerns voiced by betting operators regarding the impact of potential disqualification of runners on raceday.
It is expected that the review committee will meet once a week to consider sanctions from all races, most likely on a Tuesday.
“We are extremely grateful for the engagement and feedback we have received through the period of technical discussions. The discussions were full and frank, hence the time they have taken to conclude,” said Brant Dunshea, BHA chief regulatory officer.
“The discussions quickly established that there was overall support for the vast majority of the recommendations. However, as expected there were some areas of concern raised. We have listened to the feedback we received and made adjustments to the initial proposals accordingly.
“We recognise that some of the new rules are going to take some time to get used to for some jockeys, which is why we have factored in time for communication and education as well as a bedding-in period before the rules and penalties are implemented in full.”
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