At their Board meeting today the Directors of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) approved a proposal for a fundamental change to the rules governing use of the whip, together with revisions to the existing penalty structure.
The Board agreed to progress a proposal in which the fixed number of times use of the whip is permitted is replaced by an emphasis on reviewing the manner in which the whip is used, as well as taking account of frequency. The new rule will be ready for implementation in early March.
Paul Bittar, Chief Executive of the BHA said:
“Over four months have passed since the introduction of the first set of rules following the Whip Review. Despite a number of changes to both the rule and the accompanying penalty structure it is clear that while many objectives of the Review are being met, and in particular those pertaining to horse welfare, a rule which polices the use of the whip based solely on a fixed number of strikes is fundamentally flawed.
“While well intentioned, and in accordance with initial requests from the jockeys for clarity and consistency via a fixed number, in practice the new rules have repeatedly thrown up examples of no consideration being given to the manner in which the whip is used as well as riders being awarded disproportionate penalties for the offence committed.
“The challenge is to have in place a rule and penalty structure which meets the objectives for fairness and proportionality outlined in the Whip Review while retaining the positives which have been a product of the changes to date. These include the virtual removal of all serious breaches and an overall reduction in the number of offences.
“We are confident there is not a welfare problem associated with the use of the cushioned whip in British Racing.
“The objective of this proposal is to keep jockeys riding to a similar standard as they are now with regard to their significantly reduced use of the whip, but with added discretion and common sense applied by stewards when considering whether a rider is in breach of the rules.”
As a consequence of the Board decision, rather than it being an automatic breach when a rider uses the whip eight times on the Flat and nine times over jumps, the figures become the trigger point for the stewards to review the ride in question. Stewards will then consider how the rider has used the whip in the course of exceeding the number before deciding whether a breach has occurred and a penalty is warranted.
The Board also sanctioned the introduction of a revised penalty structure, the aim of which is to increase the proportionality of the penalties, in particular for minor offences. Within the context of the current rule, the Board approved the proposal for treating cases of frequency of both one and two over as Lower Level breaches, whereby one over will still warrant a two day ban and two over will incur four day ban, rather than five days as at present.
In addition, repeat offences at both the Lower and Upper Level will not result in the penalty multiplying. Instead, each offence will be treated on its merits. However, a fifth ‘Lower Level’ offence or a fourth Upper Level offence within six months will result in a referral to the Disciplinary Panel. This ensures that there is a threshold at which repeat offenders are held accountable.
The changes to the penalty structure will take effect from Thursday 23rd February and will be retrospectively applied to suspensions still to be served.
Paul Bittar continued:
“Prior to the implementation of the new whip rules, stewards policed cases of mis-use of the whip based on similar principles to that outlined in the proposal. The difference with this proposal is the markedly lower and clarified threshold levels for when a ride will be reviewed.
“It is recognised that the most demanding challenge in relation to framing the rules on this subject is finding the balance between a proportionate penalty and one that also acts as an effective deterrent. In particular, the Board recognises that this question may come under scrutiny in major races and reserve the right to make further revisions in the future.”