Champion jockey Hughes content with tougher whip restrictions

Champion jump jockey Brian Hughes has welcomed the new whip rules, set to be implemented in the autumn, despite admitting it will take time for some of his weighing-room colleagues to make necessary adjustments.

New restrictions include riders being permitted to use the whip to encourage horses only in the backhand position, which makes it more difficult to use the whip with “excessive force”, according to the findings in the review by the 15-strong Whip Consultation Steering Group.

Hughes, who became only the fourth rider to reach 200 winners in a campaign when taking the title for a second time in April, admits he has yet to read the full details of the report which was published by the British Horseracing Authority on Tuesday afternoon.

However, the 37-year-old broadly welcomes the new regulations, which will involve a “bedding-in” period.

“Obviously, it will take a bit of getting used to but I think it is a good thing,” said Hughes.

“It shows the steering group, who come from a lot of different areas, have come to an agreement and shows they are trying to be pro-active and they are trying to do the right thing.

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Brian Hughes says he is not unduly concerned by new whip regulations
Brian Hughes says he is not unduly concerned by new whip regulations (Simon Marper/PA)

“It will take a bit of getting used to from a jockey’s point of view, because you have done one thing for so long, but to be fair, when the stick rules came in first, it took a bit of getting used to – but people do get used to them.”

Using the backhand – one of 20 recommendations put forward – is becoming increasingly common in other racing jurisdictions and the Breeders’ Cup implemented similar rules in 2021.

“When you look at the Breeders’ Cup, they were hitting them in the backhand and it was definitely pleasing to the eye,” said Hughes.

“I don’t feel negative towards it and while I haven’t given it a lot of thought and haven’t had the chance to read through the proposals, I am not unduly concerned to be honest.

“In racing, people are sometimes reluctant to change, whether it is press, owners, trainers, jockeys or racecourses. It is never going to be an easy job for anyone (to sell the changes).

“We are doing our best to show we are doing the right thing.”

Though the review process may fail to appease some who oppose the whip entirely, Hughes feels the industry need to do more to educate the wider public about its use in racing.

He added: “It is a tool for safety. You watch the Royal Procession and the riders have a stick to control the horses pulling the Queen’s carriage in the right direction. That is similar. They are not hitting them hard and we are not hitting them hard. We have foam-cushioned whips.

“That is a perfect example – we use them for direction.

“You could stand at a track and you can hear the crack of a whip and think ‘Wow’, but that is the design of the ProCush stick. It is the noise as much as anything (that induces a flight response).

“Sometimes you need a stick for a horse who is hanging – it is a safety implement, to make them go one way or the other.

“Going forward, it is about education. People love to have an opinion and fair enough if they have all the facts, but it is all about educating people of the reasoning behind why we need a stick.

“We need to show racing in a positive light and be pro-active, and I think the work done by the steering group is trying to do that.”

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