As we have reported the BHA made the decision to change the whip rules last year. The implementation of these new rules was delayed by a couple of weeks due to backlash from jockeys. This lead to some changes to the proposed new laws, including the removal of the rule that stipulated the whip could only be used in the backhand position.
Despite the initial consternation caused by new whip guidelines they have now been fully rolled out with the bedding in period now over, the new rules came into full force on 13th February.
Bans are no longer issued on the day of the race as in the past. Instead the Whip Review Committee now meet weekly to judge whip overuse and issue penalties if needed. The last meeting was yesterday and saw the committee issue no less than 20 suspensions for the previous week of racing.
One of the jockeys suspended is Lorcan Williams, who has ridden 19 winners so far this season from 119 rides. Lorcan was due to ride at this years Cheltenham Festival but a ban of 18 days will now see him miss the event entirely. This is a significant blow for a rider in some of the best form of his career.
Lorcan used the whip nine times in the Grade 2 Novices’ Hurdles at Haydock last Saturday, this is two times more than allowed under the new rules. He also used the whip above shoulder height, another aspect no longer allowed. The ban was also doubled because this was a class 1 race, with enhanced bans in place for riders who overuse the whip in class 1 and class 2 races. Lorcan is understandably disappointed, saying:
“I’m absolutely gutted, but it is what it is and I’ll take it on the chin. Hopefully I’ll learn from it but it has been a hard transition for us all.
“It’s a tough one to take and it’s hard to keep those emotions away when I was in that tight of a finish at Haydock, especially with these new rules we’re having to adapt to.”
Lorcan Williams received the longest ban of the 20 riders but others also received significant suspensions. Charlotte Jones was another of the riders suspended after using the whip 11 times in the mares’ bumper at Ayr last Sunday. This being four times more than the permitted level of seven it means she will now face a 14 day ban. Luke Scott also received a 14 days ban for using the whip more times than permitted in a class 2 race.
While all jockeys were given a bedding in period it is still felt that the rule changes have come too quickly and many feel the rules should have changed at the end of the season to give riders more time to adapt. The rules are, however, here to stay and with the Cheltenham Festival just three weeks away it is likely we will see more suspensions between now and then that could impact top jockeys.