Following on from yet another change to the whip rules may I suggest a few more rule changes, which I believe will help improve our sport.
One important change, already being discussed on the back of the recent changes, is the introduction of centralised stewarding.
For too long the sport has relied on well-meaning amateur stewards who have varying levels of competencies, from pretty good right through to the inexplicable. In recent years they have been supplemented by stipendiary stewards, employees of the BHA who are supposed to bring some consistency to proceedings.
Now that has worked but only to a limited extent. As with the amateur stewards the standard of the stipes is variable. Most are good but one or two have gained a reputation as being out to make a name for themselves or have been perceived as being biased against particular riders.
The stipes also work on a regional basis and this has led to a situation where, for example, stewarding in the north is perceived to be much stricter than in the south. Certainly many northern based jockeys are of the view they are punished more harshly riding in the north than had they committed the same offence in the south.
The answer is simple – have one amateur and one professional steward on course to deal with local administrative issues but have a central panel, based at BHA headquarters, to deal with any disciplinary enquiries arising during the meeting. Having a central panel should provide a greater consistency and remove the current postcode lottery where different panels will reach different verdicts for what is basically the same offence.
Next up is a further "tweak" to the whip rules, which should have been implemented from day one, and it is for serious breaches to also involve withholding not only the rider’s prize money but also the prize money from the trainers and owners as well. That would concentrate the minds more and would discourage connections from encouraging their jockey to adopt a “win at all costs” policy.
The BHA tried to address this by prohibiting connections from “compensating” riders who had been penalised their prize money, however that is a wholly unworkable regulation and could be circumvented so ridiculously easily that it is not worth the paper it is written on.
There is another change I would make would to penalties. I would scrap the provision whereby Group One race days are automatically excluded from “minor” bans, which can be perceived as being somewhat perverse, and all bans will run on consecutive days.
However I would also offer a “pay-off” against the change.
I would retain the default situation, whereby any ban comes into force 14 days after the ban is given. However I would also allow a rider, at their own discretion and for bans of seven days or less, to have the ban commence at an earlier date, to ameliorate the impact of the ban.
So, for example, if a ban starting in 14 days time meant a rider missing part of a major meeting, the rider, if they so wished, could choose to have the ban commence earlier, even the day after it was given, should they choose to accept the ban.
This should help reduce the number of, frankly, pointless appeals which always seem to spring up in the build-up to the big festivals.
My next change is an administrative change, whereby trainers should lodge a copy of the riding instructions given to the rider with the clerk of the scales at the point where the jockey weighs out. To ensure confidentiality they could be submitted in sealed envelopes.
The declaration should be signed by the trainer (or their representative) and the rider. Should there then be an enquiry into the running of a particular horse then the written instructions can form part of the enquiry. It should resolve some of the ambiguity around riding instructions in non-trier cases.
There are quite a few other changes I can think of but these will do for starters.