BHA Amends Whip Rules; World Horse Welfare 'Disappointed'

Following an outcry from jockeys, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has amended rules implemented Oct. 10, including those that result in disciplinary measures for jockeys using their whips more than five times inside the final furlong of a flat race or after the final hurdle in a jump race. However, World Horse Welfare (WHW), a U.K.-based equine welfare charity, is disappointed in the amendments.

The rules had proven controversial, with the suspensions of several leading riders, one of whom announced his retirement, and the forfeiture of a purse for the jockey in a group I race at Ascot.

In its Oct. 21 action the BHA left in place rules that call for disciplinary action when a rider uses the whip a total of seven times in a flat race and eight jumps over hurdles.

But the amended rules, which were scheduled to take effect with racing as of Oct. 21, also mean riders will no longer lose their purse earnings in a race for which they were suspended for violating a whip rule. The BHA also said that it has rescinded penalties imposed on jockeys while the new rules were in place and will adjust them accordingly based on its actions.

According to the BHA, the adjusted guidelines are:

  • Removal of the numerical limits in place on the use of the whip in the final stages of races (the last furlong of a flat race and after the last obstacle in a jumps race). It should be noted in this context that numerical limits on the use of the whip in the final stages of races were in place prior to the new rules being introduced, including in the final furlong. Numerical limits relating to the number of times that the whip can be used in total throughout a race will remain in place (up to seven times in a flat race and eight times in a jumps race). - Jockeys' riding fees will no longer be included in the penalties for whip offenses.
  • The number of days' suspension for whip rule breaches before the jockey's prize money percentage will be forfeited is to be increased from three to seven days. The effect of this is that where a jockey has used the whip one more time than is allowed under the rules, the jockey's prize money percentage will no longer be forfeited, but a suspension will continue to apply.
  • Amending the penalty advice where a rider is referred to the Disciplinary Panel having incurred a fourth suspension of five days or more within the previous 12 months. This advice will be changed to a suspension within the range of two months to six months and an entry point of three months.

"As with all of the Authority's work, these adjustments will be subject to constant monitoring," the BHA said on its website. "Additionally, clear processes are in place for annual reviews of all rules. The Board has also considered the impact on those jockeys who have received penalties that would not have been applied if these adjustments had been in place since the introduction of the new rules. These penalties will be rescinded and appropriate measures have been taken, including the release of riding fees and prize money where applicable, and riding suspensions either annulled or adjusted."

Meanwhile, WHW is "deeply disappointed" with the BHA's amendments, according to a statement on the organization's website.

Chief Executive Roly Owers said, "We have said throughout the review that it is important for any penalty structure to be aimed at changing the behavior of jockeys as well as trainers and owners. The rules and the penalties have now been weakened, which must decrease their chances of working. We will be watching closely to see if the rules are followed, enforced, and result in a major reduction in the number of whip offenses.

"It is unfortunate that this has been watered down, but we appreciate that a significant financial deterrent for jockeys that overuse the whip remains," he continued. "We feel that by hitting the pockets of the minority who do so will make them think twice before they use their whip. No one should profit at the expense of the horse."

Erica Larson and Ron Mitchell contributed to this article.

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