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Jockeys Can Be Disqualified for Whip Over-Use in Landmark Horse Racing Rule Changes

New Rules Clipboard and GavelJockeys that over-use their whip could be disqualified from a race in new rules implemented by the BHA – a situation that could see punters tearing up their betslips in disgust even after their horse has crossed the line in first place.

Until now, the main sanctions for over-using the whip had been fines and/or suspensions – often thought not to be enough of a deterrent, particularly in major races like the Grand National….Sam Waley-Cohen was suspended for nine days and fined just £400 for his over-enthusiastic handling of Grand National winner Noble Yeats back in April, and that is a result that would have been overturned under the new regulations.

Jockeys will also only be allowed to use their whip via a backhanded motion, rather than with a forehand strike, in rules that could change how riders time their runs to the finishing post in future.

As well as those new laws, other changes to the use of whips in horse racing include:

  • Whip can be used seven times in total in Flat races, eight over obstacles
  • Disqualifications where the whip is used four times (or more) over the limit
  • Suspensions to be doubled for whip over-use in ‘major’ races
  • A new review panel will be formed to evaluate whip use in racing

It is expected that the new rules will be put into practice from the autumn onwards following a consultation period with jockeys, and certainly in time for the start of the new National Hunt campaign.

Backhanded Brief

Jockey Number 5 Holding WhipThe idea behind the imposition of a backhand-only rule is that, in this position, jockeys aren’t able to wield as much power as they would with a forehand swing.

And so the number of incidences of ‘excessive force’ being used, which can leave physical marks and weals on a horse’s hind quarters, will hopefully fall as a result.

A jockey may use the whip in a forehand position but only when their safety, the welfare of their horse or others in a race is under threat. If their usage does not fall under this category, they could be suspended for seven days – or a fortnight if the infringement occurs in a race which the BHA determines to be a ‘major’.

The definition of a major has been widened, and now encompasses all Class 1 and 2 races on the Flat or over obstacles, while any race where the prize money pot exceeds £27,500 (Flat) or £20,000 (jumps) will also fall under the remit of a major.

More significant suspensions could be metered out in instances where a jockey has grossly exceeded the acceptable number of whip strikes, or to repeat offenders.

Lost in the Winner’s Circle

Disqualified Red Sticker

If a winning jockey is adjudged to have used their whip eleven or more times in a Flat race – or twelve over obstacles – they will be reviewed by the newly-installed panel of whip stewards, who will decide what punishment is forthcoming.

If the limit has been exceeded, then a jockey – and thus his mount – can be disqualified, meaning that he or she could pass through the winner’s enclosure and still later be DQ’d from the race.

The president of the Professional Jockeys Association, PJ McDonald, also took part in the steering group that undertook the whip usage consultation. He believes the new rules will act as a sufficient deterrent to riders that go too far in their pursuit of victory.

“While as jockeys we would prefer not to have seen penalties for whip offences significantly increased, we also have to accept that steps needed to be taken to prevent breaches of the whip rules,” he said.

“The introduction of disqualification for certain offences is a major step, but I think we all share the same hope and expectation which is that it is a rule that will rarely, if ever, need to be used, as it will serve as a significant deterrent to jockeys using the whip too frequently.”