FLAT racing superpower Aidan O’Brien has hit out at new whip rules which come into force in the New year.
The legendary trainer – who has won an incredible 83 Classics in England and Ireland – believes the latest guidelines are ‘shocking’ and could do ‘irreparable damage’ to racing in Britain.
Talking exclusively to Sun Racing columnist and TV pundit Matt Chapman, O’Brien said punters will stop betting on racing if jockeys are not allowed to ride ‘sensibly’.
And he warned ‘the new rules could be the beginning of the end for English racing’.
Here, Chappers reveals in full detail the extent of the Ballydoyle supremo’s warning – a message that will send shockwaves around the sport.
SURELY the powers that be have to listen to this?
Record eight-time Derby winning trainer Aidan O’Brien believes new whip rules facing jockeys in the UK could prove catastrophic for the sport.
The master of Ballydoyle, hugely respected and acknowledged as one of the all-time great handlers, has been left bewildered by the decision of the British Horseracing Authority to once again tinker with the current whip guidelines.
When I spoke to him earlier this week he was quick to stress: “Matt, look, we are only visitors so this is not really our business.
“We’re delighted to be welcomed to take part in British racing.”
However, then — crucially — he added: “But I can’t think there is any rider in the world who thinks this is a good idea.”
O’Brien expanded on his views further, with thoughtful words that the authorities must surely heed.
He said: “For me the new rules could be the beginning of the end for English racing.
“Punters will stop betting if jockeys can’t ride sensibly.
“The next step will be to take the whips away. Any country in the world where whips have been taken away has seen racing take a big downturn. It’s really shocking.
“British racing can be the best in the world. England have the best of everything. But this could do irreparable damage.”
One of the most disruptive changes scheduled for the New Year is to force jockeys to only use their whip in the backhand position.
Currently they can also use it in the forehand, which allows slightly firmer contact with the deeply foam-padded aid.
THERE’s a decent all-weather card at Lingfield today and my nap is YIMOU (1.15) who remains on a good mark and was just touched off the last time he ran here
“You cannot get the best out of a horse with just the backhand,” said O’Brien, who not only has won more Classics and Group 1s than most but has also sent out a legend in Istabraq to land three victories in the Champion Hurdle.
He explained: “Horses are highly intelligent. They will just take advantage of jockeys using the backhand. The new whip doesn’t do much more than tickle a horse.”
One horse who has hardly ever seen the whip is Constitution Hill, the unbeaten sizzling hot ante-post favourite for the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The brilliant Supreme and Fighting Fifth winner, trained by Nicky Henderson for Michael Buckley, was expected to face a showdown with Honeysuckle in March.
But the latter, who has won the last two renewals of the hurdling showpiece, might not even line up.
After defeat in last weekend’s Hatton’s Grace, her trainer Henry De Bromhead said she might be aimed at the less prestigious Mares’ Hurdle.
If that happens it’s pathetic.
I’m a huge fan of Honeysuckle’s owner Kenny Alexander, because I like people who talk the talk and are outspoken.
Most are so afraid to say anything.
BACK UP YOUR TALK, KENNY
That said, if you do talk the talk you also have to walk the walk.
Before her shock loss on her seasonal debut, Alexander said: “I think she’ll win the Champion Hurdle, Henry thinks she’ll win it and Rachael Blackmore thinks she’ll win it.”
Some say Honeysuckle hasn’t received the respect she deserves since the emergence of Constitution Hill.
They might be right, although her rating — never higher than 165 — tells you she hasn’t beaten much.
Alexander added: “Constitution Hill is special but so is Honeysuckle. I still fancy she’ll do it in March.”
Well Kenny, she can only do it if she runs.
Today we were hoping to see a Champ vs Paisley Park dust-up but, despite temperatures set to rise a few degrees, the meeting was frosted off on Thursday.
You might be thinking Ascot could have moved their fixture to tomorrow, and even possibly held it behind closed doors.
However, there are many more sensible reasons why that hasn’t happened than you might realise.
Firstly, with the World Cup Final on betting and interest would be less.
Added to which, if no crowds there would be huge prize-money costs with zero income and a massive amount of criticism for not allowing people on to the course.
This is in marked contrast to Ireland, where racedays are moved regularly and the prize money is funded centrally. There is no model to reschedule in the UK.
That said there’s still Kempton to look forward to. So I’ll be back Boxing Day to whip up a storm with my King George column.
In the meantime, folks, have a very Merry Christmas.
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