Elsewhere on this site, you can read about the new whip rules that are being introduced by the British Horseracing Authority. Now the organisation has confirmed that it plans to introduce these rules at the start of next year, meaning that they will be in place by the time that the Cheltenham Festival gets underway for 2023.
There will be a four-week ‘bedding in’ period, which will ensure that jockeys are up-to-date with the new rules ahead of the Festival in 2023. The new rules will be implementing in full from the 6th February.
The BHA has also confirmed the dates that the new whip rules will be introduced for flat racing. The difference in the seasons means that flat racing rules will come into place on the 27th of February for the four-week ‘bedding in’ period, then from the 27th of March for the full implementation of the rules. The hope is that the new rules will encourage jockeys to be more considered in their use of the whip, as well as offer a greater level of consistency when it comes to stewarding, plus stiffer penalties for when the whip is misused.
Why The Rules Are Changing
There are many that feel as though the use of the whip in horse racing is generally not a pleasant thing. The numerous critics of horse racing as a sport would be quick to point out that hitting an animal with a whip constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, with the British Horseracing Authority having acquiesced to this point of view to a limited degree.
In order to try to appease the sport’s critics, as well as to ensure that the horses are indeed less uncomfortable, the BHA has devised a series of changes to the whipping rules that the body hopes will be more palatable.
Of course, most of those that are against horse racing as a sport are of the belief that it is cruel in any form, so they are unlikely to be appeased by the BHA’s suggestions. Even so, the revised rules about the use of the whip have undergone extensive consultations, looking into both the technical side of things as well as by including key figures within the horse racing industry. For horse racing’s critics, it won’t be enough. Yet the reality is that the sport isn’t going anywhere and so the moves from the BHA are at least a step in the right direction.
The Implementation Plan
British racing will introduce its new rules and penalties over the use of the padded whip for the 6th February, as far as jump racing is concerned. That will be the start of a four-week ‘bedding in’ period, which will see jockeys asked to ride under the new rules but not subjected to any of the penalties should they get it wrong. The same sort of bedding in period will be in place for flat racing, starting on the 27th of February. The difference between the two dates is down to flat racing being out of season, meaning that many flat jockeys will be racing abroad at the earlier time.
It will be highlighted to jockeys when they would have fallen foul of the new rules, giving them time to adapt their riding style to take the new rules into account. There is a suite of 20 initiatives being brought in by the British Horseracing Authority, covering the likes of how the whip is used as well as changes to regulation and enforcement of the rules. Jockeys need time to not only learn these new rules, but also to re-wire their brains in order to ensure that the muscle memory doesn’t see them punched for doing something they’ve been doing for years.
More Consistent Stewarding
One of the chief reasons for the introduction of the new rules, alongside the fact that it will be better for the welfare of the horses, is that it will offer a chance for stewards to be more consistent in their stewarding. The hope is that the whip will be used more judiciously, with jockeys being encouraged to improve their style of whip use. An extensive period of technical discussions has been carried out by the BHA in the period since the publication of the Steering Group’s proposals, meaning that the ones being put forward are those that most in the industry agree with.
If the rules are clearer for jockeys to follow, they should also be clearer for stewards to understand in terms of what will and will not be punishable. This will allow for a quicker and more understandable decision-making route for the stewards to follow and the jockeys to get their heads around. Previously, it has been felt by some that the rules were not overly clear and that some jockeys were punished for something that others were not picked up on. That is the sort of thing that should be avoided moving forward.
What It Might Mean For Cheltenham
In theory, there should be very little difference to proceedings when it comes to fans of the Cheltenham Festival. The bedding in period will have reached its conclusion a few weeks before the Festival is scheduled to get underway, giving jump racing jockeys plenty of time to learn how the new whip rules will work. As part of the consultation period, it was acknowledged that there was a concern from some betting companies that potential qualifications would have an impact on the outcome of bets, which has been taken into account.
As a result, the Whip Review Committee will make decisions about the disqualification of runners for an egregious use of the whip away from the raceday. The current plan is for the committee to meet once a week, which means that any riders that have over-used the whip during Cheltenham week will likely not face punishment until the meeting has reached its conclusion. Equally, bets settled according to first past the post rules will not be affected by any decisions reached by the Committee, meaning that they should be settled as normal.