Horses will be disqualified when their jockeys commit an “egregious” breach of the whip rules and riders will also be banned from using their whip in the forehand position from later this year following the publication of a long-awaited review of racing’s whip regulations on Tuesday .
The report by the British Horseracing Authority’s Whip Consultation Steering Group (WCSG), which included jockeys, trainers, owners, horse welfare groups and media commentators, also calls for sterner penalties for minor breaches of the rules, and a doubling of current penalties when offenses occur in high-profile events.
However, it stops short of recommending an outright ban on the use of the whip for encouragement, which it suggests was a “minority” view among its members.
Britain will be the first major racing nation to introduce disqualification as the ultimate penalty for a breach of the whip rules and the move could potentially prove unpopular with punters and the betting industry, despite the expectation of David Jones, the WCSG’s chair, that it will be “very rarely” used.
The group’s recommendation is that a horse will be disqualified only when a rider has gone four “hits” over the current limits of seven on the Flat and eight over jumps, which will be retained in the new regime.
“It’s worth noting that the ambition for this rule is that it is one that we will very rarely need to use or see enforced,” Jones said on Tuesdayyesterday. “It’s been an over-cited view in racing that if disqualification was a deterrent, then the rules would never be breached. We are hopeful that this principle will apply to offenses where the rider has gone substantially over the permitted level.”
The insistence on use of the whip in the backhand position only will also be a significant divergence from other nearby racing nations, including Ireland, which sends hundreds of horses and riders to Britain every year, in particular for the Cheltenham Festival in March.
“I believe that the arc with the backhand means that there’s less emphasis on force,” Tom Scudamore, a leading National Hunt rider and WCSG member, said yesterday on Tuesday. “In most cases, you’re striking in a better place and from the perception point of view it will look a lot neater and tidier.
“At the moment I would use it significantly more in the forehand. Percentage-wise, it would probably be 70-30, so it’s something I will have to change and accept. It’s all part of being professional, you learn and adapt.”
Brant Dunshea, the BHA’s chief regulatory officer, said on Tuesday that the new regime is “a world-leading initiative”, adding: “This has been a very thoughtful process, the recommendations are very nuanced and it positions Britain very prominently internationally. It will be interesting to see if others follow us in that respect.”