Monday, March 12, 2012

Whip Controversy at Cheltenham

The whip: an emotive, controversial and constant debate within racing ever since the new rules were brought in some six months ago. Since their introduction and subsequent modifications the Cheltenham Festival is certainly the highest profile meeting that has come under the microscope whilst they are in use.

With so much hanging on the outcome of all of the 27 races at the Cheltenham Festival, the new relaxed guidelines will come under pressure for the first time, nine or more strikes will trigger an enquiry rather than an automatic ban and given the increased pressure that the high-profile Festival brings it could be have been anticipated that there would be a similarly increased number of bans. That wasn't the case last year though when under the old rules there were just four breaches of the rules which resulted in seven days worth of suspensions and just two cautions. Those following the Cheltenham betting will hope bans do not ruin the festival.

This year of course the limits will be a little lower than was permitted last year but since the new rules came in last year it has been very much the case that the jockeys have proved more than capable of riding inside the rules and have adjusted very well to them in the majority of cases. In fact the large majority of the bans were for just one of two strikes over the "legal" limits and with the addition of discretion now for the stewards to fall back on we should be able to see the Festival week through without any controversial whip incidents which mar and cloud the wonderful sport on offer. Those looking for 2012 Cheltenham betting tips need to bear this in mind.

Of course many of the riders at the Festival will be experiencing the new rules for the first time and particular care has been taken with making sure that the visiting contingent from across the Irish Sea have been fully briefed on the new rules. It should be pointed out though that none of the jockeys sanctioned last year was Irish-based. Perhaps the group that need the most coaching are the amateurs who can let the heat of the battle get to them especially when Cheltenham Festival glory is up for grabs – nearly a third of the breaches at the last five festivals have gone the way of that group.

The use of the stick is always going to be one that attracts its share of headlines let's hope that none of them are about this week's wonderful Cheltenham Festival.

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