Crunch talks begin over fears no jockeys will be left for Cheltenham Festival with whip rules leading to massive bans | The Sun
EMERGENCY talks are believed to be underway in an attempt to avoid a full-blown civil war over the whip in racing.
A number of top trainers have joined jockeys in voicing concerns over the new rules and fear that there will be 'no jockeys left' by the time the Cheltenham Festival rolls around because of the size of potential bans.
The rule which is causing the most concern at the moment is the one that deals with the height at which jockeys use their whip.
In the past, there was no clear definition on use of the whip 'above shoulder height', which has long been a punishable offence in UK racing.
But with new whip rules set to come into force from February 13, this particular offence will be treated with zero tolerance going forwards.
If there is a clear gap between the jockeys hand and the top of their helmet, they are deemed to have broken the rules.
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If they do so in a Class 1 or 2 race, they'll be automatically slapped with an eight-day ban, with a further six days for each breach thereafter.
Top rider Harry Cobden was widely praised for his brilliant winning ride on Il Ridoto at Cheltenham on Saturday, only for stewards to tell him afterwards it would have earned a whopping 24-day ban.
Sean Bowen would also have faced the same suspension for his winning ride on Back On The Lash.
That prompted an outraged Paul Nicholls to call for the introduction of the new rules to be postponed until later this year, with the 'bedding-in' process due to last another 11 days.
He said: "Two fantastic top rides. How they can get bans is beyond me. Cobden excelled on Il Ridoto.
"This all needs postponing until after the spring festivals otherwise this is all going to be a disaster for the sport. For once common sense needs to prevail."
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The BHA have already performed a U-turn over plans to force jockeys to use the whip in the back-hand position only.
And now riders are trying to force racing chiefs to abandon this new rule – even though they agreed to it a few weeks ago.
Veteran jockey Sean Quinlan even claimed to have thrown his whip away during a race because he is finding so hard to adjust to the incoming rules, racking up 51 days in hypothetical bans in the process.
With the sport on the brink of descending into complete chaos, and the real risk of a number of top jockeys been forced to sit out huge chunks of the season through suspension, both the BHA and the jockeys are now meeting for crunch talks.
But, unlike the short-lived back-hand rule, there is no guarantee that the BHA will change their minds about the shoulder height rule.
The likeliest outcome is that penalties will be reduced in an attempt to avoid jockeys facing mammoth suspensions and missing the biggest meetings of the year.
There are a lot of angry and deeply worried riders in the weighing room and many have called for the issue to be resolved as quickly as possible before the end of the bedding-in process.
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