Ruby Walsh: eight-strike whip limit is a backwards move for Irish racing

Ruby Walsh has described the new whip-use limit of eight strikes, set to be introduced in Ireland on April 9, as a "regressive" move.

The nation's 12-time champion jump jockey believes the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board is merely copying the BHA.

Five-time Irish Flat champion jockey Johnny Murtagh, who is now a trainer, has also spoken out about the new rule, which comes in the wake of the IHRB revealing that in 2018 there was a 26 per cent increase of whip breaches, with 213 recorded for the year.

Walsh said in his Paddy Power blog: "I don’t think the Turf Club needed to introduce the eight-strikes rule into Irish racing. It just looks to me like they’re copying the BHA. You’re always told as a kid that just because your friend jumps into the fire doesn’t mean you do.

"It’s a backward step. We have so many well-qualified stewards in Ireland who know what they’re doing – we’ve taken the power away from them.

"Stewarding is like refereeing. There are rules but you should always go on what you see. If it looks bad, it is bad. But if it doesn’t look bad, it’s probably not.

"I’ve always believed that whip rules are very important. There are times when two strikes are too many and there are times when horses respond to ten or 11 strikes. Putting a number on it never made sense to me then – and it still doesn’t make sense now."

Walsh also spoke about the decision to overturn Declan Lavery's ten-day National Hunt Chase ban on appeal at Thursday's BHA hearing.

Lavery was initially handed a ten-day suspension by the stewards after finishing third on Jerrysback for "continuing to ride when it appeared to be contrary to the horse's welfare".

Walsh said: "I don’t think the stewards got it right at Cheltenham by banning Declan. Thankfully that ten-day ban was overturned.

"My opinion is based on the fact that the pair were never ‘out of contention’ for either the prize-money or the each-way money for people who backed the horse. To punish guys who don't pull up their horses when still in contention is wrong."

While quashing the Cheltenham raceday stewards' ban on Lavery, the disciplinary panel on Thursday, were, however, clear that pulling up tired horses took primacy whatever position a horse is in, whether first or last.

A BHA statement read: “The panel were clear that the requirement of the rules to pull up tired horses has primacy over the requirement to achieve the best possible placing, and that it is no justification to continue on a horse to finish placed in a race if doing so would be contrary to the horse’s welfare.”