Everybody out! the Whipping Boys Our Experts on the Explosive Issue That Is Rocking Racing
Byline: DAVID YATES
RICHARD HUGHES yesterday stood by his decision to quit the saddle in protest at the British Horseracing Authority's new whip rules - as strike action by jockeys threatened to decimate Monday's cards.
Riders, incensed at the draconian regulations which took effect last Monday after an 11-month BHA review, plan boycotts of meetings at Windsor and Pontefract.
Rumblings of discontent over the new regime, under which Flat jockeys are restricted to seven strikes with the whip, and their National Hunt colleagues to eight - with severe penalties for transgressors - flared up into open rebellion when Hughes sensationally called time on his career after receiving a second ban in the space of four days.
The Irishman, ruled out of the 2011 Breeders' Cup after being hit with a 10-day suspension at Kempton on Thursday night, stood by his decision yesterday, saying: "The penalties are horrendous. If someone gives away a foul in a game of football, they don't lose the next five matches - they give a free kick away and get on with it."
And, as the dust settled on Hughes' sudden and dramatic retirement from racing, a groundswell of support from the weighing room targeted Monday's meetings.
Yesterday morning, the names of all jockeys booked to ride at Windsor were removed from the BHA administration website, while most had disappeared from Pontefract's fixture later in the day.
As well as the beefed-up punishments, riders have railed against the detail of the rules which limit them to five smacks with the whip inside the final furlong, or, in jumps races, after the final obstacle.
Spelling out its members' concerns to the BHA - the opposing bodies will meet on Monday - a statement from the Professional Jockeys Association read: "The recommendations from the jockeys include revisions to the range of penalties for infringements as well as some further clarifications of the rules themselves."
In response, the BHA issued a statement of its own last night, with a pledge to "resolving this matter as quickly as possible".
While racing should have been c e l e -brating QIPCO British Champions Day - the richest-ever card staged in the UK - at Ascot this afternoon, the mood in the sport hit rock bottom.
Champion jockey Paul Hanagan (above) yesterday spoke "a cloud" hanging over the riders' community.
"In all the time I've been riding the atmosphere in the weighing room has never been so bad," said Hanagan. "There's a cloud hanging over it. There will hardly be a jockey with a licence who won't have sympathy with Richard Hughes and I, for one, understand his frustration," he told his attheraces.com blog.
Tom Queally, who today partners the unbeaten Frankel for Sir Henry Cecil in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, accused the BHA of "rank bad" timing in bringing the new laws into effect four days before the historic card.
"Introducing the rules this week is rank bad timing and it's appalling for the sponsors QIPCO," Queally wrote on his Racing UK blog. …