Jockeys leaders have urged colleagues not to strike on Monday in protest at contentious new strict whip rules.
The jockeys, who had threatened to boycott meetings at Pontefract and Windsor, were advised to ‘take their planned rides as scheduled’ by the Professional Jockeys Association following the offer of talks by the British Horseracing Authority.
Throughout Friday the sport teetered on the verge of civil war as frustrated jockeys demanded the BHA address concerns over the new regulations introduced last Monday.
The harder line came as the weighing room rallied to support Richard Hughes, who quit the sport at Kempton on Thursday night after he fell victim to the new rules for the second time, offences that earned him bans totalling 15 days.
Hughes has vowed not to return until changes have been made.
After having been locked in crisis talks, the beleaguered BHA invited the PJA to thrash out grievances at a scheduled board meeting on Monday.
PJA chief executive Kevin Darley said: ‘We are pleased that the BHA board will meet the representatives of jockeys so that together we can resolve the current issues. It is imperative for the sport that these matters are settled as soon as possible.’
A statement from the BHA read: ‘The British Horseracing Authority yesterday confirmed that it was listening to jockeys’ concerns about the new whip rules and that it had asked for and would consider any formal submission the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) chose to make on this subject.
‘We have this afternoon received a short submission from the PJA. The BHA has today invited the PJA to attend a planned Board meeting of the Authority on Monday so that they can elaborate further on the submission they have made before further detailed consideration by the BHA’s Review Group.
‘The PJA has accepted this invitation.
‘This dialogue will build on constructive talks we held with the PJA on Tuesday. Throughout the process of amending the rules on use of the whip and associated penalties the BHA has worked closely with representatives of the PJA and we are encouraged that they recognise our commitment to thorough consultation.
‘We will not be suspending the current rules pending these discussions, but we do commit to resolving this matter as quickly as possible while ensuring that due process is followed.’
Meanwhile, Hughes admitted to trepidation on behalf of his fellow riders as they balance the new rules with expectations of owners, trainers and punters at Saturday’s inaugural £3million British Champions Day at Ascot.
Hughes said: ‘I am concerned for the lads but I’m also concerned for racing. I’ve taken a step out of the situation. I don’t want to be branded as a fella who wants to hit horses. If the other lads feel they can ride within the rules, good luck to them.’
Hughes objects to minor breaches of the new rules prompting riders to be stripped of their riding fee and winning percentage.
He also argues that restricting the number of strikes to five in the final furlong from their allowed ration of seven hits could tempt a jockey to start hitting his mount earlier in a race.
The shame of this sorry affair is that a golden opportunity has been missed to present a united front on a difficult issue. The response of jockeys has indicated that most are open to significant change, a position presenting acres of potential common ground with the BHA.
Apprentices Antioco Murgia (five days), Sophie Doyle (11 days) and Declan Cannon all joined the list of banned riders after falling foul of the new rules on Friday.
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