The Case for my 5-1 Haydock tip… and why strike action might be needed against insane whip rules | The Sun

JOCKEYS have been banned for 1,355 days — nearly four years! — under the BHA’s insane new whip penalties.

It’s staggering. Enough is enough.

No one would begrudge riders if they took strike action.

And I’m not talking about Windsor on a Monday night, even though it’s one of my favourite meetings of the week.

Such is the abuse being handed down to them by out-of-control rule makers, I’d suggest making a stance at the Derby or at Royal Ascot.

It needs to be THAT big, and trainers, owners and punters should support 100 per cent.

Paul Struthers, the former excellent chief executive of the Jockeys’ Association, has been keeping tally.

His figures suggest 72 bans adding up to 433 days for jumps riders between February 7 and March 20, and 174 suspensions numbering 922 days under National Hunt and Flat codes through March 27 and May 29.

That’s 246 bans with 1,355 days where certain riders have been denied the chance to earn a living.

At this point I need to state the figures are not bombproof, as BHA amend them  from week to week. But they are bang in the ballpark.

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One of the latest victims is Andrea Atzeni, a man who has never been considered ‘whip-happy’ as a jockey, quite the opposite.

Atzeni was banned for 12 days after his biggest success of 2023 in the Yorkshire Cup on Giavellotto.

The Italian got four days for careless riding and eight for his use of the whip. He may appeal.

A clearly depressed Atzeni told me: “I didn’t enjoy one minute of winning the Yorkshire Cup — that has never happened to me before in any race in my career.

“To win a Group 2 should be good for me. But it was horrible.

“I came home and I just sat there. It makes you feel what is the point? It’s terrible really.

“I don’t have a retainer. To get 12 days is a big hit financially. People will say don’t break the rules. But what did I actually do?

“I’m the first one who thinks any sort of win-at-all-costs mentality is wrong and I don’t think there is any mentality like that in the weighing room.

“I know Marco Botti, who trains Giavellotto couldn’t believe it.”

Now, the BHA will tell you riders ‘asked’ for strict penalties for the new whip rules which were updated in February.

But don’t be fooled by that.

BHA believed it saved face by trading with the Jockeys’ Association, currently virtually redundant with pathetic leadership.

So when BHA gave in to the jockeys and allowed them to use the whip in the forehand position — having originally banned that — they countered with crazy penalties.

The Jockeys’ Association agreed. In practice it’s chaos.

Some of the world’s most skilled sportsmen and women are being penalised for simply riding as anyone who takes part in their profession should do so.

Banned for technicalities that are backed up by zero science.

I’ve never agreed with the whip rules. They are made up by people who have no faith in the sport of and cave in before backing what is an incredible industry.

But I have to accept they are not going to change. The penalty structure, however, is something that MUST be altered.

Former champion jockey Jamie Spencer said: “Look how BHA don’t advertise it on their website. Like the bans for interference are easy to access, but not so for those on the technical side.

"That’s because it’s fundamentally wrong. People have to understand we are not footballers on huge wages. A four-day ban can make a massive difference.

“Anyone can count to six, the problem rests with the technicalities and entry point for the penalties.

“If you asked 100 people, 99 would not be offended by someone using their whip within two and a half strides versus three strides. Yet we get banned for two and a half.

“It’s nigh on impossible to use your whip without time to respond over jumps, but on the Flat over 5f, 6f and 7f in a big field things happen very quickly.

“We are pandering to a snowflake, woke 0.01 per cent of the audience and that’s weak.

“It should never have come to this. Racing is tough, and horses and jockeys get hurt and killed. But we know the risks. You have to stand up for the sport.”

I have sent more than ten emails to the chief executive of the BHA asking if I can interview them since February. I have had one response asking for my phone number and if I would like to ‘go for a coffee’.

My phone never rang. I have coffee at home.

Incredibly there are people out there who claim the new whip rules are ‘a success’. They are not.

They are a disaster. . . and the so-called powers-that-be are utterly gutless not to face up to the questions they should have hurled at them.

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