The rules for the use of a whip by jockeys in British racing are likely to change by the spring of next year.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) will on Thursday start a delayed advisory on the whip after plans were delayed in 2020 due to Covid-19.
Disqualification due to rule violation would be one of the options discussed.
The consultation will begin with an online questionnaire, which is open to the public for 10 weeks, prior to discussions with the broader focus groups.
“While nothing has been predetermined, no decisions have been made and no options are on the table, I think it would be a reasonable expectation that there will be some level of reform as a result of this process,” said Brant Dincia of BHA.
Questionnaire respondents will be asked to consider:
- What rules must allow for the use of a whip
- Whether the current penalty framework provides a sufficient deterrent to prevent rule violations
- If disqualification should be considered as a penalty for breaking the rules
- Whether international rules should be harmonized
- If the handling of the sport changes if the rules of the whip are changed
Julie Harrington, chief executive of BHA, said the race must “listen to and understand a range of viewpoints if it is to thrive and protect its long-term future”.
Whip rules were last revised 10 years ago when the maximum hits were introduced – seven on the flat and eight over the jumps.
Racing leaders don’t think the use of a foam-lined whip is a luxury issue, but they do accept that there is a negative perception among some segments of the broader audience.
In December 2018, Then the CEO of BHA, Nick Rost He told the BBC that tougher penalties were likely to be imposed at the big races.
Fifteen months later, consultations are planned – later postponed due to the pandemic – After the Horse Welfare Board (HWB) said that while the number of whip offenses by riders had decreased, it remained “unpalatably high”.
Dincia said the HWB’s recommendation was to examine the punishment structure around rule violations rather than a “referendum” on the use of a whip.
“I want to stress that this is not a polarized yes/no debate, vote or referendum about whether the whip should stay or go, and this is really important to note. The responses are evidence that the Steering Group will consider,” he said.
He said any rule changes would give “a period of validity,” but he expects any modifications to take place after next year’s Grand National in April and before the first flat season of the Classics in May.