As ever, as we approach the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National meetings, we are writing to request your assistance in communicating some important information and advice to all visiting Irish riders.
The guidance for 2019, as detailed below, relates to: course walks and pre-race briefings, starting, whip use, pulling up of tired horses, remounting, disruption to racing and bypassing.
The Cheltenham Festival Review included a recommendation that riders should be reminded of their responsibilities in relation to horse welfare. The welfare of horses is of paramount importance and riders should be aware that they will be subject to greater public scrutiny at these fixtures than is typically the case. The Stewards will be covering this subject at all prerace briefings with riders.
Any rider who has not ridden since 1 May 2017 on any/either Cheltenham course (Old/New) on which they are booked to ride is required to complete a mandatory course walk. This requirement is based on a recommendation made in The Cheltenham Festival Review, published in December 2018.
The only exceptions are riders who have ridden that course 25 times or more during their careers – these riders will be exempt and are not required to take the course walk unless they wish to do so.
Once declarations are made, riders required to complete a course walk will be notified directly. In the meantime, if riders would like to know their experience status regarding a course walk, they can enquire via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two course walks will take place on each morning of the Festival. The first will take place at 10.15am, with the second at 11.15am. Any riders arriving at the course after these times, e.g. for rides later in the day, will have an additional course walk available to them once racing is underway.
In addition to these mandatory walks of the Old and New courses, any rider booked to ride the Cross Country course for the first time in their career will be required to walk the Cross Country course on the morning of Wednesday 13 March.
Failure to complete a required course walk will result in disciplinary action from the stewards and possible suspension.
The Cheltenham Festival Review also contained a recommendation relating to the daily briefing of riders during the Festival. It is a requirement that all riders attend these briefings, which will take place approximately 30 minutes prior to the start of the first race on each day.
These briefings will cover the topics contained in this document and any additional operational or racing issues that may arise during the course of the Festival. Riders will be required to sign in at scales to confirm their attendance.
Aintree only: As in previous years, riders in the Grand National and the Fox Hunters’ Chase at Aintree are also required to attend pre-race briefings. These will take place at 12 noon in the Stewards’ Room. Jockeys riding in the Topham Chase will be briefed after weighing out and before leaving for the parade ring.
As in previous years, there will be four Starters on duty at the Cheltenham Festival, three of whom will be available to help with girthing up and to provide other assistance at the start as needed.
The Starting Procedures have been in place since October 2014, and have worked well overall. The current procedures are designed to reduce the speed at which riders approach the tapes and to give all horses the chance of a fair start. Outlined below are the relevant BHA Rules and a summary of the day-to-day procedures that will be in use at Cheltenham and Aintree.
Riders are asked to approach the tapes at no faster than a jig-jog. If the Starter is not satisfied, for any reason, with the manner in which the field approaches the Start on the first attempt, s/he will not start the race and will instead call the riders to a standing start. Any rider deemed to be in breach of the starting procedures (unless a problem arises through no fault of their own) will be reported to the Stewards.
If a standing start is required we ask that riders line up behind the marker poles. The starter will not be able to start the race until riders are in line in the correct position.
We appreciate that everyone is under pressure on these occasions but ask that jockeys please comply with the starting procedures. By working together, we can get races underway at the first time of asking.
On Grand National day at Aintree there will be five Starters, four of whom will be girthing up. Riders have typically responded very positively to the starting procedures, resulting in no problems with the start of the Grand National in 2015, 2016 or 2018. However, in 2017 the riders lined up before the Starter signaled for them to do so. It is vitally important that the riders work together with officials to ensure that this year’s race goes off without incident.
Penalties for misuse of the whip are suspensions and, in certain circumstances, fines. The Rules are designed to protect the welfare of horses and the image of horseracing. BHA guidelines on the use of the whip can be viewed at: http://rules.britishhorseracing.com/_documents/guide_to_procedures_and_penalties.pdf (pages 22-25), along with a summary of the Rules/Penalties. These are also attached as an appendix to this document.
As per the note on horse welfare above, use of the whip at these meetings will be under the spotlight. It is vital for the image of the sport that riders adhere to the guidelines. If any rider needs further guidance, they are advised to speak to the Chief Steward on duty.
Increased emphasis on the pulling-up of horses that are out of contention was another recommendation of the Cheltenham Festival Review. Jockeys have made excellent collective progress in relation to pulling-up of tired and out of contention horses at both the Cheltenham and Grand National Festivals in recent years. We thank you for that and would once again urge you to do this if you are out of contention, as it is vital from both a welfare and a public perception perspective.
The Rules provide the Stewards with wide powers in relation to this important equine welfare requirement. The penalties for breaching any welfare-related Rule are significant.
If riders fall or are unseated during the race they may NOT remount their horse and continue in the race. If they do, the horse will be disqualified and the rider will be suspended.
If a horse is caught after a fall or unseat, the jockey may ride the horse back to unsaddle ONLY if s/he has been authorised to do so by a vet and the jockey has been assessed by a Racecourse Medical Officer or ambulance paramedic as set out in the Rules (B 46.2 and B 46.3). A rider will be suspended if s/he rides back on a horse that has not been seen by a vet.
Riders should report to the Clerk of the Scales in good time before racing, as they may require assessment by BHA medical staff and all will need to sign an Attestation Certificate.
At both Cheltenham and Aintree, all fences and hurdles are bypassable. If Black/Yellow direction markers are displayed anywhere in the fence/hurdle, the obstacle MUST be bypassed. Racecourses can now use more than the usual three direction markers in an obstacle if they wish. The rider must follow the direction of the arrow on the direction markers when bypassing an obstacle.
In the event that drones are used, as part of an attempt to disrupt racing, contingency plans have been put in place. Please obey the instructions of officials. Please note that ITV will be using drones, by prior arrangement, but these will follow an agreed flight path at a safe distance from the track whilst races are in progress.
Advertising (Sponsorship) on jockey clothing/equipment
Riders must not carry any form of advertising on any part of their raceday clothing or equipment, unless a Sponsorship Agreement has been lodged in advance with Weatherbys and approved by the BHA. Furthermore, the posterior site (beneath the coccyx site) is the property of the Professional Jockeys Association and, as such, may only be sold by them as part of a group deal.
Thank you for your assistance with all of the above, which will help to ensure successful and incident-free racing, enabling us to showcase the very best of our sport.
We will assess these procedures following the Cheltenham Festival and will be in touch again in due course should further changes be required for the Grand National Festival at Aintree.