Important reading for all amateur jockeys heading to ride at Cheltenham



The guidance for 2020, 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.

Horse welfare

The 2018 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 pre-race briefings with riders.

Course walks

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.The only exceptions are riders who have ridden that course 25 times or more during their careers – these riders 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 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 11 March.Failure to complete a required course walk will result in disciplinary action from the stewards and possible suspension.

Pre-race briefings

The Cheltenham Festival Review also recommended the daily briefing of riders during the Festival. These briefings are compulsory for all Festival riders and 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.


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.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.

Whip use

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 accessed through the link provided, select Contents, Chapter F. The Race which includes the rules and guidance on penalties!/book/34. These are also attached as an appendix to this document.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.

Pulling-up/tired horses

Jockeys have made excellent collective progress in relation to pulling-up of tired and out of contention horses at Cheltenham Festival 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.If riders fall or are unseated on the way to the start they may remount and continue to the start but MUST, if they have not already been assessed by an RMO or Paramedic, report that they have remounted to the Starter.

Medical assessments

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 Cheltenham, 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.DronesIn 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 may be using drones, by prior arrangement, but these would 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.For Cheltenham, ONLY Irish jockeys may, as part of a reciprocation agreement with the PJA and BHA, wear Comer Group International branding on the posterior site (beneath the coccyx site).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.

Should you have any queries, or if you require further advice or guidance, please don’t hesitate to contact me, by telephone or email.

Best Wishes,

Brant Dunshea

Chief Regulatory Officer

Summary of Starting Procedures

Unless unavoidable, races will not be started with horses coming directly from girthing pens to the start line.
When girthing is complete, the Starter in charge shall mount the rostrum, even if there is still time to wait before the designated off time.
When girthed up, horses will walk round on course some distance back from the Start. However, no start will be effected if the runners are too far back. It is envisaged that they will be approximately 25 – 30 yards maximum from the start line.
There will be no goggles shout or any indication of the time remaining to the designated start time. It is the responsibility of the riders to be prepared, including having their goggles down, for the start.
When the Starter, who will be at the top of the rostrum, wishes the field to walk forward he will raise his flag to indicate this and also give the normal voice instructions. The Advanced Flag Operator will simultaneously raise their flag which should also be visible to riders.
Having raised the flag, only the Starter will issue instructions to the riders.
The field must come forward at a walk and no faster than a jig jog.
The start will be effected by the simultaneous release of the tape and dropping of the flag when the field have approached the Starter in such a way that he is satisfied that the start will be safe and fair.
Races will not be started if the field line up and commence to move forward before the Starter raises his flag or approach the start at faster than a jig jog before the tape is released and flag lowered.
If the above happens, the Starter will wave his flag to indicate that the race will not be started and the field must pull up. The Advance Flag Operator will also wave their flag to enable riders furthest away from the Starter to understand that the race will not be started.
Should the field be unable to pull up, the tape may be released for safety reasons but the Starter will continue to wave his flag and declare a false start which will be reciprocated by the Advanced Flag Operator.
If the race is not started at the first attempt, the field will regroup at the marker poles and a standing start to the satisfaction of the Starter will be effected by tape and flag. There will not be a further attempt at a walk-in start and runners will not be sent back further than is necessary to regroup at the marker poles.
Starters will report offending riders to the Stewards.

Rules of Racing: Chapter F. The Race (6), starting procedures code provided in in F(6.2) and through link below!/book/34/chapter/s3516-starting-procedures-code/content?section=s3527-general

Summary of Whip Rules and Penalties

Rather than rules based solely on a fixed number, stewards will focus more on how the whip is used and be able to apply their discretion when considering a rider’s use of the whip.
The trigger for stewards to review a rider’s use of the whip remains the existing figures of eight (8) times or more for Flat races and nine (9) times or more for Jump races. However, rather than such use representing an automatic breach, the stewards will look at the ride and decide whether or not to hold an enquiry.
When deciding whether to hold an enquiry the stewards will consider the rider’s use the whip during the course of the entire race, with particular attention to its use in the closing stages and relevant factors such as:
The manner in which the whip was used, including the degree of force;
The purpose for which the whip was used;
The distance over which the whip was used and whether the number of times it was used was reasonable and necessary;
Whether the horse was continuing to respond.
Provided that the overall manner in which the whip had been used was measured, stewards may choose to disregard occasions when the whip was used, for example:
To keep a horse in contention or to maintain a challenging position prior to what would be considered the closing stages of a race;
To maintain a horse’s focus and concentration;
To correct a horse that is noticeably hanging;
Where there is only light contact with the horse;
Following a mistake at an obstacle;
To correct a horse that is running down an obstacle;
A rider found to have used his whip once over the permitted level, after the Stewards have applied their discretion, will be suspended for two (2) days, two times over will incur a four (4) day suspension and three times over a seven (7) day suspension, with each extra usage adding two (2) days to the penalty.
Previous offences are not to be taken into account when deciding on the level of penalty. Offences which incur a suspension of two to six days are to be treated separately from those offences that incur a suspension of seven days or more.
Under a revised referral process repeat offenders will be referred to the Disciplinary Panel and incur a lengthy suspension (see penalty guidelines). Riders will be referred after their fifth offence of a two to six day ban within the previous six months, or after their fourth offence of seven days or more within the previous six months.
It is generally accepted that the incentive to breach the rules is greater in more valuable races. Consequently stewards will have the ability to impose a fine on a rider between £200 and £10,000. This will apply in Jump races worth £20,000 or more and Flat races worth £27,500 or more. Stewards will consider the gravity of the offence and the rider’s earnings in that particular race when identifying the appropriate level of fine.

Rachel Brierley-Byron Ambrose

Regulatory Operations Project Assistant

British Horseracing Authority

75 High Holborn

London WC1V 6LS

Telephone: +44 20 7152 0000

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