Officials at the British Horseracing Authority will await the publication of proposals from the Horse Welfare Board before being drawn on the future of the whip.
The emotive subject made headlines again on Thursday after a newspaper report suggested the board – an independent body established earlier this year – was set to recommend an urgent consultation on the use of the whip, with options that could include a blanket ban on its use.
Responding to the report, the BHA said in a statement: “The Horse Welfare Board is still working on their welfare strategy and we understand that it will be published in the early part of next year.
“We will not comment on speculation in the meantime, while the strategy is not yet finalised.”
There was intense debate about the whip in the wake of Royal Ascot in June, after Hayley Turner was handed a nine-day suspension and fined £1,600 for using her whip above the permitted level aboard Sandringham Handicap winner Thanks Be.
Thanks Be’s trainer Charlie Fellowes later said he believed the current rules are wrong and his filly should have been disqualified – and there have since been calls for the whip to be banned altogether.
On the other side of the coin, Mark Johnston – the most successful trainer of all-time in Britain in terms of winners – offered an impassioned defence of the use of the whip in racing in mid-July.
Speaking during a media morning to promote Glorious Goodwood, Johnston: “When we stop using the whip, the next thing to go will be jumps racing and the next thing after that will be racing altogether.
“It’s the beginning of the end and it breaks my heart to think about it.”
On Thursday, jockey Tom Cannon was suspended for a total of 18 days by a disciplinary panel for his use of the whip.
Cannon was referred to the BHA after stewards at Aintree deemed he had used his whip when clearly winning aboard Hogan’s Height in the Grand Sefton Chase over the Grand National fences earlier this month.
As the offence warranted a suspension of between two and six days, and taking into account that it was the rider’s fifth such suspension within the previous six months, Cannon was referred to the ruling body.
He will sit out December, 27, 28 and December 31 to January nine, with six days deferred until March 9.