Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board criticised over new whip limit rule
Introducing eight-strike limit rule ‘shows lack of enlightened thinking’, says jockeys
Paul Townend on Al Boum celebrates victory in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup on Gold Cup Day at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 15th. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images
The body that represents Ireland’s jockeys has accused the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) of a “lack of enlightened thinking” in relation to the introduction of a limit on whip use next month.
The IHRB has indicated that from April 9th any rider striking a horse nine times or more in a race will automatically trigger a stewards inquiry.
That move has come on the back of last year’s statistics which revealed a 26 per cent increase in the number of whip breaches here. It brings Irish racing into line with whip regulations in Britain while in France the maximum number of strokes permitted has been cut to five.
When the IHRB’s limit was initially announced earlier this month the Irish Jockeys Association said the regulatory body would rue the day of its introduction.
Since then the IHRB has been criticised by some of racing’s most high-profile figures including Ruby Walsh who has described the limit as regressive and claimed the IHRB is simply copying the British Horseracing Authority.
The increasingly beleaguered BHA has come under heavy after a number of controversial decisions including most recently at the Cheltenham festival.
Thursday’s successful appeal to the BHA by amateur jockey Declan Lavery against a 10-day ban imposed for not pulling up in Cheltenham’s National Hunt Chase has added further fuel to the fire of a general welfare debate in Britain and how racing should be regulated.
The IJA secretary Andrew Coonan said on Friday that confirmation of the IHRB’s approval of the new limit has caused considerable concern among riders here.
“There is considerable concern that we’re moving in a direction of other racing jurisdictions that have already created problems for themselves by binding themselves to a specific number of strikes.
“We have seen that this creates a problem and has created immense difficulties in English racing. It has created problems in other racing jurisdictions. And it shows a lack of enlightened thinking that we would now follow that route,” he said.
The IHRB’s new rule will be in place less than a fortnight before Easter’s Irish Grand National. That’s followed shortly after by the high-profile and hugely valuable Punchestown festival.
If the whip represents a potential powder-keg issue at those fixtures the options for riders to respond appear limited. On Friday Coonan also expressed frustration at how the new rule is being pushed through by the IHRB.
“I’ve only just got draft legislation this morning which I’m trying to get out to jockeys to review. That’s disappointing since this is going in the calendar next week and we’re only being furnished with details at this stage,” he said.
In other news Gold Cup-winning jockey Paul Townend is on the verge of a first ever century of winners and has half a dozen chances to reach the landmark 100 this weekend.
Townend is currently on 98 winners for the season, 14 ahead of his nearest rival Rachael Blackmore in the race for the jockey’s championship.
The man who guided Al Boum Photo to Blue Riband glory last week teams up with Jessica Harrington for the ride on Jetz in Saturday’s featured Pierce Molony Chase at Thurles.
Townend guided Jetz to a Grade Three victory in the Flyingbolt Chase before the horse exited early in his subsequent effort at Naas. He has first-time cheek-pieces against three opponents this time.
Scarpeta has to concede weight all round in an earlier conditions hurdle where his opposition includes the Topham Chase hope Peregrine Run.
The Mullins runner has it to do on ratings but should find this a lot easier than last week’s Coral Cup where he raced wide for much of the race.
Sunday’s Toals Ulster National at Downpatrick sees the topweight Out Sam face a major marathon task. Unlucky in the race last year November’s Cork National hero could still be a major contender despite his 12.1 burden.