In his first major challenge since being appointed the British Horseracing Authority’s new chief executive, Paul Bittar proposed fresh amendments which were approved at a board meeting yesterday.
The board has given the thumbs-up to a fundamental change to the rules governing use of the whip, which is due to be implemented in early March, together with revisions to the existing penalty structure, which come into effect tomorrow.
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 allowed number before deciding whether a breach has occurred and a penalty is warranted.
Bittar explained: “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.”
Bittar’s aim has been to try to prevent the Cheltenham Festival being overshadowed by the issue that has dogged the sport under both codes since last October.