The Whip Debate – Thoughts on the BHA and the 2023 Whip Review

A common-sense conclusion to the self-revived whip debate  

The BHA hasn’t ever felt that the sweeping changes of the 2011 whip rules twere strong enough and they clearly want to further tighten the rules in an effort to keep ahead of the issue.  Having said that, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of public anti-whip clamour.

Nevertheless, when the Whip Consultation Steering Group was launched last year, it was clear that big changes would be afoot. The main points were:

• Use of the whip for encouragement will be restricted to the backhand position only.

• The permitted number of strikes will remain at seven on the Flat and eight over jumps.

• Increased penalties for rule breaches, including a doubling of penalties in “major races.”

• Disqualification for usage of four strikes or more above the permitted limits in all races.

• Development of a review panel to assess all rides and implement the rules.

There have been a number of issues raised with the proposed changes. Moreover, the decision to bring in the rule changes on 6th of February, just a few weeks before the Cheltenham Festival, risks a very high-profile mess.

Although initially reticent to speak out, they have increasingly found their voices in recent weeks. The BHA then announced that they will consider making changes before the soft launch on the 9th of January, in advance of their full implementation.

The BHA continue to be committed to making changes that deliver “more considered and judicious use of the whip for encouragement, and improved perception of whip use.” However, by softening to making amendments to the proposed changes, they have allowed for a potential smoother transition to the new rules.

The forehand use of the whip seems one likely to cause controversy. Jockeys with physiques unsuited to the technique come up short with their strikes and may hit their mounts on their flanks. This could have an impact on results with jockeys struggling with the technique adjustment and aren’t able to pull their whip through as quickly as they in the backhand position.

Additionally, the proposed whip-related disqualifications seem strange. They proposed doing so in the days after the race via a newly-created whip review committee. A centralised panel makes plenty of sense, but doing so in the days after the race is bizarre. It would be very unsatisfactory if a tainted result was allowed to stand and settled in the betting markets despite it being clear that a disqualification would be  given a few days later.

While it is something positive that they are trying to achieve, the BHA should be open to consultations with the stakeholders and should delay the proposal’s launch. It is more important that it is done well, then done soon. We will wait and see what the BHA does next.


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