Talking Horses: Bans give jockeys reason to whip racing’s rulers into line – The Guardian

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Suspensions make it odds-on the free pass the BHA received from the previous riders’ regime will be revoked
William Buick’s defence of the Flat jockeys’ championship, which he won for the first time in 2022, seemed to be faltering slightly only a week ago, when he emerged from Royal Ascot having drawn a blank at the biggest meeting of the summer and tied for third place with Hollie Doyle in the title race.
Seven days later, after a run of nine wins from 29 rides, Buick has overtaken both Doyle and Joe Fanning to reach 40 winners, just one behind Oisin Murphy, the champion from 2019 to 2021. Murphy, meanwhile, has had seven wins in the same period, but also received news last week that his ride on Valiant King in the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot had earned him an eight-day ban for going one stroke over the new whip limit of six strokes.
In a lesser race, one stroke over would have meant a four-day ban but the whip rules introduced by the British Horseracing Authority at the start of the season included an automatic doubling of bans for offences in races at Class 2 or higher (which covers all 35 events at the royal meeting). In the context of a title race that is now approaching the halfway stage, even the four extra days as a result of the “doubling up” for Ascot could prove to be very costly in the final reckoning.
There is an argument, of course, that discipline and an ability to win within the rules is a key attribute of any potential champion jockey, and that a rider who spends a disproportionate amount of time on the sidelines due to suspension is not worthy of the honour.
As Paul Struthers, the former chief executive of the Professional Jockeys’ Association, pointed out in a recent blog, however, the BHA’s new Whip Review Committee (WRC) has now handed out a cumulative four years in whip suspensions – both over jumps and on the Flat – in just four months. This, Struthers suggests, is “having a significant impact, both mentally and financially, on jockeys. Not just on those who have been suspended, but on those who are trying desperately to ride within the rules”.
Struthers, who has recently returned to the PJA on a consultancy basis, also feels that the penalties for some offences are “ridiculously disproportionate” to the offence, and cited the doubling of penalties in higher-quality races as a prime example. It is, he argued, “like being banned from driving for your first time going 34 in a 30mph zone, as opposed to attending a speed awareness course or taking three points and a modest fine.”
Struthers posted his blog a couple of weeks before Ascot, but Murphy’s ban is an obvious example of the type of penalty he has in mind. Valiant King was one of 19 runners, in a mile-and-a-half handicap on the round course with a field comprised mainly of lightly raced three-year-olds.
Sandown 1.55 Korker (nb) 2.30 Born To Rock 3.05 Yibir 3.40 Devil’s Point 4.15 Certain Lad 4.50 Miss Cynthia 5.25 Roman Dynasty  
Doncaster 2.20 Ravenglass 2.55 Lotus Rose 3.30 King Of The Plains 4.05 Hiya Maite 4.40 Isle Of Sark 5.15 Kimnkate 
Newton Abbot 2.40 Guinness Affair 3.15 Sandalwood 3.50 Coolnaugh Haze 4.25 Pink Eyed Pedro 5.00 Investment Manager 5.35 Olivers Travels 
Beverley 5.10 Mecca’s Duchess 5.50 Princess Karine 6.25 Alexander James 7.00 Star Start 7. 35 Optician 8.10 Twilight Jazz 8.45 Boom Boom Pow
Haydock 6.05 Kristal Klear 6.40 Feud 7.15 Darnation 7.50 Paws For Thought (nap) 8.25 Tango Man 9.00 Danzart
Murphy had more opponents in front of him than behind turning in and was also several horses wide, but he steadily threaded his way through the field and ended up against the rail, eventually going down by just a head to Desert Hero. It was a brave run through a big field under a strong drive and Valiant King was responding to Murphy’s urging all the way to the line.
The 19-runner field for the King George V was slightly above the average of 17 for handicaps on the round course at this year’s royal meeting, and more than double the average of 8.5 runners for all UK Flat handicaps last month. Which is as it should be, given the significance and prestige of the meeting, not to mention the prize money on offer.
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But it also makes every jockey’s job even more of a challenge, and so it seems unfair that the penalty for the most minor breach of the new whip rules is twice what it would be in an eight-runner field at Beverley or Brighton.
Murphy, like Frankie Dettori and Danny Muscutt, is now ruled out of the valuable July meeting next week, which is a big loss too for Newmarket, Dettori’s “home” track, since being a stopping-off point on the jockey’s farewell tour could only have helped with attendance. The ban, for going one over on Inspiral in the opening race at the royal meeting, also robs Dettori of a final chance to land the July Cup, the only British Group One missing from his record.
Discontent in the weighing room over the new whip regime has been bubbling under for a while, and was seemingly a factor in the recent upheavals at the PJA which ultimately saw its chief executive, Ian McMahon, depart last month.
With Struthers, a much more experienced and effective operator, now back on the jockeys’ team, and suspensions for both top riders and the middle-to-lower tiers continuing to pile up at an unprecedented rate, it seems odds-on that the free pass on the issue which the BHA received from the previous PJA regime will soon be revoked.

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