Former jockey Luke Harvey says he favors horses being disqualified if whipping rules are broken, following a review committee’s call for a significant increase in penalties.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) released a report by the Whip Consultation Steering Group – including industry figures such as trainer John Gosden and jockey Tom Scudamore – on Tuesday. recommend changes to whip rules and penalties which may include disqualifications.
The report calls for the introduction of disqualifications for horses when a rider uses the whip four or more times above the permitted level, which should remain at seven strikes for flat jockeys and eight for jump jockeys.
Along with this, the council will recommend limiting jockeys to using the backhand whip except for safety reasons.
Another proposed change is a doubling of the suspension for breaches in “major” races, set on both codes to include all Class 1 and Class 2 contests and all races over a total prize of £27,500 for a flat race or £20,000 for a jump race.
Speaking to Sky Sports Racing, Harvey said a line needed to be drawn in the sand for jockeys and the sport would become much fairer.
“I thought it was inevitable that horses would be disqualified when horses go over a certain limit,” Harvey said.
Report Recommendations: Rules of the Whip
1 – The use of the whip for safety purposes must remain a fundamental principle of the regulations.
2 – The Rule requiring the carrying of the whip (but not necessarily used) must be retained.
3 – Use of the ProCush Whip should continue to be permitted for encouragement, with strict and appropriate regulation of its use.
4 – Whip rules will be modified to restrict use for cheering to the backhand position only.
5 – Harmonization of whip rules and penalties is a positive aspiration. The BHA should continue to play a leading role in discussions on harmonization with its international counterparts, notably Ireland and France.
“When people say there is some wiggle room in the number of times a jockey has been allowed to hit a horse, I always thought that was a load of garbage.
“You have to draw a line in the sand – if it’s eight, it’s eight. I’m in favor of disqualifying horses, in no other sport you can cheat and win.
“What’s the point of obeying the rules when the guy who beat you got away with it. The strength in the backhand position is tiny compared to when you return one.”
However, Harvey conceded that introducing the use of the backhand only cannot alter the general public’s perception.
“I just wonder in the general public’s perception, that even if you can’t hit a horse that hard, I wonder if it will appease people,” he added.
“I just wonder if it will make a difference to people who don’t want the whip used at all.”
“I hope this will create a better understanding”
Group 1 winning jockey Luke Morris agreed the new rules will make the sport a level playing field, but said he saw no need to switch to using the backhand only.
“When you’re competing you want to know that the guy you’re competing against isn’t going to completely break the rules. It’s good that it’s at a level where people can’t take the mickey out of the rules, I think it’s a good thing.
“I’m not sure what the real difference was between going from forehand to backhand, I don’t think there’s much of a difference in strength. We’ll have to work on that and hopefully that creates a better understanding.”
Report Recommendations: Sanctions
1 – The threshold for applying certain whip penalties will be lowered, to increase the deterrent effect and ensure earlier intervention.
2 – Penalties will be increased for specific offenses where the current penalty is deemed insufficient.
3 – The pecuniary penalties applied to amateur riders for whipping faults will be increased.
4 – The structure of penalties for the use of the whip beyond the authorized level, which are the most frequently committed offenses, will be revised to increase the deterrent effect.
5 – The penalty structure for using the whip above the permitted level in major races will be revised by doubling the suspensions for the same infraction in standard races.
6 – Repeat whipping offenses should be dealt with at an earlier stage, and penalties for repeat offenses should be increased to deter further repetition.
7 – The disqualification of the horse will be introduced as part of the sanctions for particularly serious use of the whip beyond the authorized level, where there has been a clear and flagrant disrespect of the rules.
Head of the BHA Brant Dunshea also spoke to Sky Sports Racing after the recommendations and said the new decisions will soon be reflected around the world.
“That will be the main objective of the stewards before allowing a race and announcing the result, he said. We hope that it will be very unlikely that the marshals miss a clear exceedance of the authorized level which would trigger a disqualification.
“Of course, this disqualification regulation will place us differently to other nations, but I think the steering group is of the opinion that this is a world-leading initiative.
“It positions British Racing well on the international stage and it will be interesting to see if others follow suit.”
“The race needs to update a lot”
However, Freddy Tylickiwho was crippled following a mid-race crash in 2016 – asked why more had not been done to change the interference rules which have been a contentious topic in recent weeks.
Paul Hanagan was handed a ten-day ban following his victory over The Ridler in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, while Rab Havlin’s run on Free Wind in the Lancashire Oaks and the 12-day ban given to Christophe Soumillon after winning the Eclipse over Vadeni also came under scrutiny.
“Racing needs updating a little bit – well, a lot,” Tylicki said. “What I can’t figure out is how rules and whip infractions add up to driving interference?
“How come that’s more important now than being stuck in driving interference? Sorting that out for the best and the best so that when you go out you make things safer on the track.
“I don’t quite understand how the whip can be more important right now than the riding infractions after what’s happened in the last few months.”
Expert Kevin Blake agreed with this assessment, admitting that lives are at risk for horses and humans if current interference rules are not changed.
“The whipping is something we need to be aware of – and wider perceptions – but the whipping will never harm man or beast. It’s purely a perception thing that we look at.
“Interference puts horses and riders at risk every day and for me it is a much more pressing issue.
“For me, that lays the foundation for how they should approach the interference issue now in exactly the same way.
“Raise the penalties and outsource them to a panel of centralized stewards who can deal with them as cohesively as possible.”
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