Thoroughbred racing's controversial whip penalties are to be reviewed, with changes likely after a heated week.
New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing brought in new sentencing guidelines for whip use in September, and it has been the Racing Integrity Board's job to enforce them, but few could have foreseen the furore they have caused.
The main concerns for jockeys, and also trainers trying to book the best jockeys for their horses, have been suspensions for repetitive infringement, even when those infringements don't warrant suspension.
With New Zealand's senior riding ranks containing few big turnover-attracting jockeys, suspensions have also perplexed club officials who want the elite jockeys riding on Group 1 days.
The sentencing guidelines failed their most high-profile test at Ellerslie on January 9, when Opie Bosson was suspended for six meetings for his ride on The Perfect Pink because he used the whip on her in consecutive strides, even though he used it only four times in the race.
The decision of the adjudicating panel in suspending Bosson was based on three prior whip sentences inside a six-month period, so was heavily influenced by NZTR's sentencing guidelines, even though Bosson's ride clearly did not warrant a six-meeting suspension, especially when that meant missing a Group 1 day.
NZTR chief executive Bernard Saundry admitted to the Herald the guidelines need reviewing and that his organisation has received a lot of negative feedback, considerably more since the Bosson suspension.
Saundry met with his racing team on Friday and then spoke with Racing Integrity Board boss Mike Clement, and NZTR will review the penalty guidelines with input from the RIB, trainers and jockeys.
"These guidelines started on September 1 and it was always NZTR's intention to review them at the six-monthly stage but we will hasten that process after some of the feedback over the last week," says Saundry.
Workable whip rules are crucial to both equine codes, as nobody wants to see horses hit too many times or too hard, and previous rule changes have helped make enormous improvement in that regard, with New Zealand now having few jockeys who overuse the whip.
Because of that, the last 200m of the average race finish in New Zealand in both codes looks far more palatable than it did just a few years ago, and vastly more so than a decade or two earlier.
The most contentious issue in the review will be the consecutive strides rule, which effectively means a jockey could ride a horse over 3200m, not touch it for 3180m, then hit it twice in the last two strides to try and win the race, and be suspended. It would be a surprise if that was still an offence once the review is conducted.
News of the review will please jockeys, who now also have a responsibility to communicate clearly what they feel comfortable with and why, so the likely new sentencing guidelines are workable from both sides.
As for Bosson, his enforced holiday hasn't been without highlight, as he has been engaged to ride Waisake in his Wellington Cup defence on January 29, for which he is now the $2.80 favourite after a dramatic return to form at Trentham on Saturday.
Bosson will ride two of the Jamie Richards-trained Karaka Million contenders in special workouts at Ellerslie this morning, which could go somewhere to deciding who he rides in the $1 million 2-year-old race at Ellerslie's massive meeting this Saturday.