Alex Edwards becomes first jockey to lose race for breaking whip rules, with nine 'hits' over limit

Alex Edwards on Mixedwave - Alex Edwards becomes first jockey to lose race for breaking whip rules, with nine 'hits' over limit
Alex Edwards rode Mixedwave to victory at Market Rasen last week, only to be disqualified - Shutterstock/Steven Cargill

Jump jockey Alex Edwards made an unwanted piece of British racing history when a horse he rode to victory at Market Rasen last week, Mixedwave, was disqualified after the Tuesday sitting of the British Horseracing Authority’s whip review committee found he had used his whip nine times above the permitted level of seven hits.

The six-year-old made most of the running under Edwards in the Pertemps Network Handicap Chase over three miles at Market Rasen last Thursday but only hung on by a short-head from Post Chaise.

It was not immediately obvious he had ‘hit’ the horse so many times but he was slapping the horse down the neck with his hand off the reins which, under the new rules brought in a month before last season’s Cheltenham Festival, counts towards the maximum seven hits and he did appear to go overboard hitting Mixedwave behind the saddle.

Edwards, who was a leading point-to-point rider winning the Cheltenham Foxhunters on Hazel Hill in 2019 before turning professional during Covid when there was no pointing, rides predominantly for Cheshire-based trainer Mel Rowley and this would have been his seventh winner of the season.

On top of losing the race, his riding fee and his winning percentage, he was banned for 24 days from Tuesday December 12 until January 6 missing the lucrative Christmas period. One day will be spent receiving specialist coaching. The race has been given to the Oliver Greenall-trained Post Chaise.

It was a double whammy for Mixedwave’s Classic winning trainer Pam Sly as the horse has since been put up 5lb by the handicapper for the win, a rating which will not be revised.

“We just have to move on,” she said. “I’ve told his owners there’s nothing we can do and I feel sorry for them and the people who work in the yard and thought they had produced a winner. Alex rides one or two for us and won on Mixedwave last year. Taking his hand off the rein when he was slapping him down the shoulder appears to have been the problem. The horse certainly wasn’t marked or anything.

“I’ve spoken to Alex who is very upset but I’m sorry for him. I’ll still use him and not hold it against him — I’m not that sort of person. I’m 80 and have been training since I was 23 and there was nothing offensive about Alex’s ride.”

The BHA’s new whip rules have been working pretty well and having a whip review committee sit on a Tuesday means that, for whip bans picked up in big races, the bad publicity is deflected away from the day of the race. Until Tuesday 7,903 races had been run under the new rules.

A BHA spokeperson said: “Disqualification was introduced as the ultimate deterrent to overuse of the whip and there can be no excuse for exceeding the permitted level by nine uses. As well as extensive consultation and communication, jockjeys were required to undertake online training modules which clearly set out the new rules prior to riding under them.

“The wide-ranging understanding of what may trigger a disqualification, and the steps taken by jockeys to adapt well to the new rules, is demonstrated by the fact that this is the first time in almost 8,000 races that the rule has been invoked following a winning ride.”

There have been a number of high-profile jockey bans including Jim Crowley after winning the King George on Hukum in July and Franklie Dettori after winning the Champion Stakes on King of Steel.

Mixedwave is not the first horse to be disqualified. That ignominy went to Lunar Discovery who was second in a bumper at Ayr on Valentine’s Day when Charlotte Jones used her whip 11 times. Earlier this month Garry De La Brunie was disqualified at Auteuil when veteran French jump jockey Johnny Charron hit him nine times, five over the tighter French liimit. He was the first in France to lose a race for overuse of the whip.