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Horse racing: Jockey whips up a frenzy

After recent mumblings about strike action in tennis, horse racing faced a more realistic possibility of jockeys laying down their arms - or, ironically, their whips - this week when Belgium's Christophe Soumillon urged his British comrades to 'go a day without riding any races' as the new whipping regulations continued to cause chaos in the industry.

After bans and fines on the very first day, Soumillon found himself added to the list when he was found guilty of breaking the rules when winning the QIPCO Champion Stakes aboard Cirrus Des Aigles at Ascot on Saturday. On what was supposed to have been a great day for British horseracing - Saturday's card was the richest ever staged in Britain - the Belgian had to forfeit earnings of over £52,000 for using his whip six times in the final furlong, which is once more than the new regulations allow. He also received a five-day suspension, denting his quest for the French jockeys' championship. Mentioning legal action, he said: "Never can a fine like this have been handed out in sport - I never saw Zinedine Zidane get a fine like this, or Michael Schumacher in Formula One."

This comes after former champion jockey Richard Hughes said he would quit the sport in protest after his second suspension in a week for breaching the regulations. In fact Hughes is known as one of the 'gentler' jockeys, rarely being suspended under the old rules. In an interview with 'At The Races' he said that, contrary to the perception of a large section of the general public, whipping didn't hurt the horses.

Meanwhile, analysis by an organisation called World Horse Welfare suggests that since the introduction of the new whip rules less than 1% of rides has been in breach of the guidelines.

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