Jockeys voice support for changes to whip rules

Flat riders allowed to strike their mounts six times in a race, with jump jockeys authorised for seven uses of whip

Tom Bellamy believes whip rules should be “fairly black and white now” after the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) revised the proposed changes to the current regulations.

The BHA announced a series of alterations to the rules in the summer, with jockeys only allowed to use the whip in the backhand position and serious breaches of the regulations resulting in disqualification from races and possible 28-day bans for riders in big races.

However, further revisions were made to those plans after a number of riders registered their disquiet, with the implementation of the backhand-only position proving a particularly unpopular prospect.

Backhand problem

The BHA announced on Wednesday that the forehand position would be allowed, but overall permitted use of the whip in races would be reduced while penalties will be made much stiffer, with 40-day bans a possibility for the worst offences in class-one and -two races.


Flat riders will be allowed to strike their mounts six times in a race, with jump jockeys allowed seven uses of the whip — a compromise which Bellamy feels is satisfactory when combined with tougher penalties.

He said: “They were pushing for us to use the backhand and it is what it is now. The forehand position looks better, it looks better to ride with, better for the horses, so hopefully common sense has prevailed. So, hopefully, we can just get on with it now and concentrate on the racing.

“I was involved later on [with discussions] but not to begin with, like a lot of us were. A lot of us were not in the initial discussions, but it got a lot more serious and as time went on and we realised that they were coming in and a lot of us got involved.

“I think common sense has prevailed and while there will be a few bans dotted about, that is going to be the case whatever. We just have to concentrate on the racing now, which won’t be affected.

“We said that using it in the backhand position was not great for the horses, as a lot of jockeys can’t use it properly in that position and you are hitting them down the ribs a lot. That opens up a can of worms in itself.

“Losing one hit and getting stronger penalties takes the grey area out of it and it is fairly black and white now. Hopefully, it is something everyone can abide by and it is definitely an improvement on what they suggested first time around.”

“With the backhand, you are more likely to get their ribs, instead of their rump. You want to be going for the fleshy backend, which is very important.

“It would have been a big old problem for a few years [if the proposed rules had not been changed], so all credit to the BHA for changing their minds so quickly, so we can get it done, move on and get some good publicity.

“If they have to do something, then they have to be harsh with the way it is going. The majority of the weighing room are happy. I just spoke to the lads towards the latter stages, but left it to the senior jockeys.”

Sean Bowen incurred a four-day ban for his winning ride aboard Noble Yeats in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree last month, when the stewards found he had hit his mount in the wrong place as he practised his backhand whip use in the finish.

He said: “It is massive for me more than a lot of people, because I have always had a backhand issue, trying to get it all the way back you do find sometimes you are hitting the horse in the wrong place in the backhand, I’ve been trying to adapt myself — then the new rules came out last night. I got myself a ban for no reason whatsoever.

“Hitting them in the forehand is the correct way and the penalties go up at the same time, which is also correct.”

Bowen welcomed the BHA’s stronger penalty structure, with a minimum ban of four days for exceeding the permitted limit once, rising to 20 days and disqualification for five hits in standard races — a ban that will be doubled for the major contests.

‘Boys delighted’

He added: “It needs to happen. There were too many jockeys trying to use their backhand, using it above shoulder height and hitting them in the wrong place and it wasn’t going to work. The penalties have gone up and [that] needed to be done and it will stop anyone ever thinking one more will do.

“The boys are delighted. I’ve picked up two or three bans in the last month, trying to use my backhand and trying to get used to it. I’ve done it all for no reason, but the correct decision has been made.

“I think the stewards and also us, when we were trying to do it, we thought at the time it might not be great. But when we were really trying, it wasn’t working whatsoever and everyone realised it was going to be a disaster, especially before Cheltenham and it was going to ruin our sport.”