The bedding-in period for the BHA’s new whip use rules is well and truly over, with absolute chaos in their first week of official roll-out.
Some 20 jockeys have already been suspended – with regular Paul Nicholls rider, Lorcan Williams, to miss the Cheltenham Festival on account of his 18-day ban which kicks in at the start of March.
“I’m absolutely gutted, but it is what it is and I’ll take it on the chin,” the 23-year-old said.
“Hopefully I’ll learn from it, but it has been a hard transition for us all.”
The new regime kicked in on February 13, and the number of disciplinary incidents in the first seven days – adjudicated upon by the new Whip Review Committee – reveal just how difficult the change has been.
All told, the committee dished out some 134 days of suspensions to the guilty parties, with the likes of Luke Scott and Cameron Iles also set to miss out on rides at Cheltenham next month. Kevin Brogan will miss the first day of the Festival due to his eight-day ban.
National Hunt jockeys are now only allowed to use the whip on seven occasions per race, with the number also reduced to six for riders on the Flat. A previous plan to ban ‘forehanded’ whipping has been removed after consultation with a number of jockeys, who feared safety issues for those with shoulder and collarbone injuries if only backhanded strikes were allowed.
Williams was adjudged to have whipped Makin’yourmindup nine times during their Prestige Novices’ Hurdle win at Haydock Park at the week, and in addition to his 18-day suspension he has also been hit with a £1,050 fine amid the BH’s crackdown.
The new rules will have a number of riders on red alert – anyone that breaches the whip legislation from now until February 26 will also be ruled out of the first day of Cheltenham at the very least.
Charlotte Jones, meanwhile, is the first jockey to see her mount disqualified after a significant whip use breach.
She had guided Lunar Discovery to second place in a bumper at Ayr on February 14, but having been adjudged to have whipped her mount eleven times, the horse was disqualified from the places – connections had to hand their prize money back, although punters did not see their each way winnings rescinded by the bookies.
Having reviewed the tapes, the Whip Committee decided that none of the strikes were for ‘safety purposes’, and so they handed Jones a 14-day ban
to run from March 7 – she too will miss the Cheltenham Festival accordingly.
Speaking about Jones’ case, Brant Dunshea – the BHA’s chief regulatory officer – said:
“There is simply no excuse for using the whip four or more times above the permitted level. It was always likely that the disqualification rule would need to be invoked in the early stages of the implementation of the new rules.
“We hope that this sends a clear message to all jockeys and reinforces this deterrent effect.”