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UK Horse Racing’s New Whip Rules Introduced Just Days Before the 2023 Cheltenham Festival

Horse Race Finish with Whip RaisedA change to the way in which jockeys are allowed to whip their horses will come into force on February 6 2023 – just weeks shy of the Cheltenham Festival.

The new rules dictate the manner in which jockeys can use the whip and how many times, with those breaching the permitted limit by four or more strikes now likely to be disqualified from a race, rather than just fined or suspended.

Had the rules been introduced last season, Sam Waley-Cohen’s historic win in the Grand National aboard Noble Yeats would have been struck from the record, with the veteran jockey disqualified. He was found to have used his whip at Aintree over the permitted limit.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has confirmed that the rule changes, first mooted back in the summer by their whip consultation steering group, have now been approved, and a bedding-in period (during which sanctions may not always be enforced) will commence on January 9 – before being implemented wholesale four weeks later.

A similar set of regulations will be introduced in Flat racing as well, with a soft launch from February 27 before full sanctions are implemented from March 27 onwards.

The BHA’s chief regulatory officer, Brant Dunshea, said:

“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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Interestingly, the governing body has confirmed that the disqualification of riders who break the protocol will not be enforced on race day – meaning that all bets will stand once confirmed in the official results. Punters will not be forced to hand back their winnings due to retrospective action being taken.

The BHA’s new rulings on whip usage include:

  • Jockeys can only use the whip in the ‘backhand’ position
  • The whip can be used eight times in total in a jumps race (seven on the Flat)
  • Anyone using the whip four times (or more) over these thresholds could be disqualified

The punishments for those that breach the rules will be increased from those faced now, including a doubling of the suspensions for offences in ‘major’ races up to a maximum of 28 days.

The BHA also confirmed that a new whip review committee will be introduced, and it will be their job to evaluate all rides on UK soil and pinpoint where action needs to be taken. They will also have full responsibility for metering out punishments.

David Jones, who chaired the whip consultation steering group, revealed the decisions were taken to maintain ‘safe and fair’ riding, and said:

“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.”