Prescott feels whip changes are a ‘wasted opportunity’

Sir Mark Prescott thinks the British Horseracing Authority’s changes to the regulations could be “a wasted opportunity” to stamp out rule breaking relating to overuse of the whip.

A total of 20 recommendations were put forward by the Whip Consultation Steering Group – a panel made up of figures from various areas of the sport – after a lengthy consultation, with the BHA accepting all the points, which are likely to be implemented from autumn onwards.

One of the most significant changes is the new rule regarding the disqualification of horses who have been struck more than four times above the permitted levels, with eight strikes allowed over jumps and seven on the Flat. All riders must also use the whip only in the backhand position.

Prescott has previously called for the disqualification of those who break the whip rules and while acknowledging the issue has been extensively examined, the Newmarket handler suspects some of the recommendations could further muddy the waters regarding rule breaches.

“I’m very grateful that everybody has had a look at it, but I love simplicity,” said Prescott.

“I believe it’s a wasted opportunity. I love keeping things simple. Why can you hit a National Hunt horse eight times, but a Flat horse only seven? Why not make it the same? Why do you disqualify the fellow if he is four over, but not if he is three?

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“I have always thought if you break the rules, you should lose the race, simple as that. And then it would end it, the only reason people break the rules is they might win the race. So, if they broke the rules and know they will lose it, it would stop happening.

“I think I was the first (to call for disqualification for whip rule breaches) and like Charlie Fellowes did afterwards, I won a race I shouldn’t have won under the rules. It was a Listed race with a filly called Don’t Be at Goodwood. Chris Catlin rode her beautifully but he broke the rules and won a short head. I thought that was manifestly unfair and I was the beneficiary.”

Of the complexities surrounding both the logistics and policing of the new regulations, he added: “It just makes it more difficult for everyone.

“The jockey is now thinking I’m at seven, let’s go to 10 and a half. It’s nonsense. There should just be a blanket rule seven on the Flat, seven National Hunt, all in the backhand position if you want – that’s a good idea. And if you go over that, you lose the race.

“It won’t happen, it’ll only happen once or twice twice, there will be a hell of a fuss and then that’s it, they will stop doing it.

“At the moment it is your job as a jockey to go as close to a rule as you can, that’s what you are paying them to do. Obviously if they have leeway now, they are going to use it. It’s madness, because you are back to having an optional rule, because you can’t lose a race unless you’ve gone four times over, so now you’ve got three optionals.

“For my money, while I’m very grateful everybody has spent a year and a half talking about it and very grateful they have produced 98 pages of a report, I think it could have been done in half a page. You’ve got perfectly good rules, just enforce them.

“I think if we’re not careful, the rule will become like it is for dangerous riding where they just never use it. You’ve got a rule where it says if you are guilty of dangerous riding, you lose the race, but no one is ever actually convicted, everyone knows it won’t happen.”

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