Jim Crowley has been banned for 20 days and fined £10,000 for his winning ride aboard Hukum in Saturday’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.
Both Crowley and Rob Hornby, who finished second aboard Westover, were referred to the British Horseracing Authority’s Whip Review Committee following a duel to the line in the midsummer highlight, with Hukum prevailing by a head.
Flat riders are allowed to use their whip six times in a race, with a four-day ban for going one over the limit and seven days for going two over. Crowley used his whip nine times, which incurs a 10-day ban and is doubled for a class one race.
Had Crowley used his whip four times over the limit then Hukum would have been disqualified.
The rider will be banned August 15-21 and August 23 – September 4, meaning he misses the Ebor meeting at York, where he was due to ride runaway Prince of Wales’s Stakes winner Mostahdaf in the Juddmonte International. He also received the substantial fine due to the class and value of the race.
On Monday the whip rules were tweaked once more by the BHA following a six-month review period and while the changes would not have affected Crowley’s punishment due to the severity of his offence, Hornby has benefitted from the revisions.
He used his whip once above the permitted level, but given he has had more than 200 rides in Britain since his last whip offence, his initial ban was cut to two days. However, that is then doubled due to the calibre of race, meaning he will be out of action for four days (August 15-18 inclusive).
Had the rules not been changed 24 hours previously, Hornby would have had an eight-day suspension imposed.
Crowley had anticipated a significant punishment, but felt the penalty was “severe”.
He said: “I’m extremely disappointed, obviously I had an inkling it was coming so I prepared myself. I can’t change it, I’ve got to get on with it.
“I don’t think anything untoward has happened to those horses in any way, it was a brilliant race. I used my whip in a very correct manner, how I’ve been brought up to use it.
“I gave the horse time to respond, we never used it in any incorrect place or at shoulder height or anything like that. Unfortunately it’s not something I was aware that I’d done, and neither was Rob.
“It’s very difficult to count in that scenario. If you’re in a men’s final playing tennis, you’re concentrating on everything else and not counting in your head.
“Rules are rules but it’s very severe, I can’t change it. It is what it is.”
When asked if he would consider an appeal, Crowley said: “I haven’t had chance to discuss it with anybody yet, I found out 10 minutes ago so I’ll let it sink in.
“Although I broke the rules and I wasn’t aware I broke the rules, I didn’t think it was a problem watching the race. The horse’s welfare always comes first and to me that wasn’t a problem.
“I think they’ve been very severe and ruled with an iron fist, they don’t want the win-at-all cost races. Jockeys aren’t aware they’re doing it, that’s the problem.
“When you’re in a finish you are aware that you need to be careful, but you cannot physically count. You’re trying to keep your horse straight – if those horses had touched, if there had been any interference in anyway, one of them would have got chucked out.
“You’re trying to keep your horse straight, you’re in a rhythm with the horse. Both of us were unaware pulling up, which tells you that we didn’t think we’d gone over the limit.
“It’s very unfortunate but it shouldn’t take away from a brilliant race and a fantastic horse. I hope this doesn’t overshadow that.”
Hornby echoed those sentiments and admitted he did not initially think he had contravened the rules.
He said: “I wasn’t aware on the day, not at all. In fact I was kicking myself as I thought I’d only done five (strokes) – that shows what my counting is like in that situation.
“I’m sure Jim is the same. It’s a shame that it has cast a shadow over such a brilliant race, it should be remembered for two great horses.”
A spokesperson for the BHA underlined the rarity of such a sizeable ban resulting from a headline contest, but also pointed out the aim of the revised rules was to deter such use of the whip.
They said: “The use of the whip in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes was not reflective of the riding we have generally seen in major races since the introduction of the new rules. For example, the Cheltenham, Aintree, Epsom and Royal Ascot meetings have all taken place this year without a single rider using the whip above the permitted level on a winning ride.
“Specific thresholds for whip use is now standard policy amongst most major racing nations, including all of our nearest neighbours.
“On Saturday the whip was used three times above the permitted level on the winner, for which there is very little justification.
“It is to deter whip use like this that strict penalties are in place, especially in major races.
“They are designed not only to safeguard the perception of the sport, but also maintain fairness in close finishes, encouraging riders to stay within the rules, in the interest of the betting public and fellow riders.”