Protests lead to whip rules talks

Racing’s authorities have moved to calm the situation after jockey protests over the new whip rules threatened to boil over into strike action, which could have threatened Monday’s Pontefract meeting.

The British Horseracing Authority has called representatives of the riders to a Board meeting on Monday to discuss their grievances in the wake of Richard Hughes’s decision to quit after being hit with two bans.

Earlier, the Professional Jockeys’ Association submitted proposals that included revisions to the range of penalties for infringements as well as some further clarifications of the rules themselves.

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A statement from the BHA read: “The British Horseracing Authority yesterday confirmed that it was listening to jockeys’ concerns about the new whip rules and that it had asked for and would consider any formal submission the Professional Jockeys’ Association (PJA) chose to make on this subject.

“We have this afternoon received a short submission from the PJA. The BHA has today invited the PJA to attend a planned Board meeting of the Authority on Monday so that they can elaborate further on the submission they have made before further detailed consideration by the BHA’s Review Group.

“The PJA has accepted this invitation.

“We will not be suspending the current rules pending these discussions, but we do commit to resolving this matter as quickly as possible.”

In a veiled reference to rumours of a strike, the BHA statement said: “In light of the positive dialogue taking place between the BHA and the PJA we urge everyone involved in racing to engage with this process and to work with us to take the sport forward with no disruption to the racing programme.”

In light of the meeting on Monday, the BHA said it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this stage.

Champion jockey and Yorkshire Post columnist Paul Hanagan feels there is a “cloud” hanging over the weighing room as the argument over the new whip regulations rumbles on.

Hanagan feels sympathy for colleague Hughes, and says that the punishment does not fit the crime.

Writing on his online blog, Hanagan, who pipped Hughes in a monumental tussle for the championship last season, admits he is finding it difficult to adapt.

“Make no mistake, there will hardly be a jockey with a licence who won’t have sympathy with Richard Hughes and I, for one, understand his frustration,” said Hanagan.

“I can assure you that in all the time I’ve been riding the atmosphere in the weighing room has never been so bad. There’s a cloud hanging over it.”

Tom Queally was in agreement with Hanagan ahead of the Qipco Champions Day at Ascot.

He said in his own online blog: “Introducing the new rules this week is rank bad timing and it’s appalling for the sponsors Qipco, who have invested so much into Flat racing and the British Champions Series.”

Queally can forget the furore over the new whip regulations for a short while when he gets to ride Frankel in the the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.

The horse has swept all before him in eight starts to date and, worryingly for his opponents in the mile Group One, trainer Henry Cecil believes there is more to come from him.

“He is a very happy horse with a lot of energy – he never seems to get tired,” said Cecil. “Although he is very active, he is not that hard a horse to get fit. You can give him an easy time and he comes back pretty quick.

“Frankel is potentially a very good horse – I think the best is still to come.

“If he stays right and everything goes to plan, I would like to think you will see a better horse as time goes on.

“I am not going to compare the best horses I have had over the years – they have been good friends to me.

“I think this horse, as time goes on, will show you what he is and you may not even have to ask me the question.”

The richest race on the Ascot card is the Qipco Champion Stakes, with a stellar cast including no fewer than six Group One winners.

One that has yet to taste success at the top table is the unbeaten Dubai Prince, who Frankie Dettori believes has a chance of sneaking the contest.

“Dubai Prince is a new horse arriving with fresh legs. He’s three from three, but is basically an unknown quantity,” said Dettori of the Mahmood Al Zarooni-trained colt.

“I’m looking forward to riding him. He’s come in under the radar a bit and we can go there with no pressure.

“It’s a great race, though, all the big horses are there, So You Think, Snow Fairy, Nathaniel, Twice Over and Midday.

“I think So You Think is the one to beat – the track should suit him. I beat him at Royal Ascot (on Rewilding) and he was tough to pass.”