Friday’s BHA whip meeting: the not so innocent jockey victims

Posted on the 19th January 2012

Despite having forced racing’s regulator to twice dilute the new whipping rules introduced on 10 October 2011, jockeys’ representatives meet tomorrow (Friday, 20 January) with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) in what appears to be an attempt to weaken them further. Media reports suggest that the new goal is for stewards to be able to exercise greater ‘discretion’ when deciding penalties for offending jockeys.

Much ground has been conceded by the BHA since October, but the new rules and accompanying stiffer penalties still represent a significant improvement on the pre-October 2011 regime. Previously, jockeys were allowed to whip horses many more times, while facing ineffectual sanctions.

According to the BHA, the number of times horses have been whipped more than three hits over the limit has fallen by 50 per cent, and ‘in three months there have been no bans for excessive force or marking horses. Five horses were marked in the same three-month period last year’ (Daily Telegraph, 16 January 2012). This reduction is all the more remarkable because the rules have been tightened and therefore the threshold for breaching the regulations is much lower.

Serial offending was a major problem under the pre-October 2011 rules, due to the weak penalties for rule breakers. In the 12 months of 2010, no fewer than 15 jockeys offended more than ten times, with three breaking the rules on 15 or more occasions. Under the new regulations, this level of repeat offending will not be possible due to the escalating penalties that would be incurred.

One jockey ‘victim’, whose case has received prominent and sympathetic media attention in the run-up to Friday’s meeting, is Robert Winston*. On 12 January, Winston received a 22-day ban for the ‘excessive whipping’ of Zenarinda and also for ‘whipping down the shoulder [of the horse] in the forehand position’. In 2010, Winston breached the regulations 13 times. During 2011, he breached them a further eight times – twice under the new rules.

Perhaps the most prominent jockey refusenik is Richard Hughes – the rider whose threat to hand in his licence after incurring two penalties under the new rules triggered the wider jockey revolt. After succeeding in having his penalties annulled, Hughes quickly fell foul of the racing authorities in India, where he picked up a one-month ban for ‘foul riding’ (a charge that Hughes intends to appeal, according to media reports).

Animal Aid believes that to further slacken the rules to suit the maverick behaviour of jockeys such as Hughes and Winston makes no strategic or moral sense.

Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

‘Early indicators point to a significant drop in the amount that horses are being thrashed due to the new rules. The regulator must not further weaken the new regime in the face of petulant complaints by jockeys who think it is their divine right to be able to beat horses in the pursuit of prizes and glory. The BHA should be considering an outright ban of the whip – something its own poll showed 57 per cent of the public want and for which Animal Aid has campaigned for more than a decade.’

Notes to Editors

  • For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Andrew Tyler or Dene Stansall on 01732 364546.
  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast-quality interviews.

Further Information

2012 Whip breaches:

* There has been a great deal of heated press coverage over the ‘extremely high’ number of days of suspension incurred by jockeys during the week of 9-15 January, following Robert Winston’s 22-day riding ban. Some racing industry commentators have argued that this demonstrated that the new rules were not working.

But this has to be set in context. During that period there were 18 breaches of the rules – 19 if the 52-day ban incurred by Robert Cooper is included. This untypically high penalty was incurred because Cooper used his whip 23 times and did not give his horse an opportunity to respond on 12 occasions. In any case, the race in question took place not in January but at the end of 2011. If the Cooper penalty is excluded, the total number of ban days incurred (9-15 January) was 82, which is in line with other weeks since the new rules were implemented.

Importantly, during the week in question (9-15 January), there were 120 races, with more than 1000 rides taking place. Ten of the whip offenders rode winning horses, which means that 110 horses won without the whip rules being breached.

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