'Livid' Paul Nicholls hits out at BHA over timing of new whip rules

Paul Nicholls: frustrated with the BHA's handling of the new whip rules
Paul Nicholls: "There are a lot of us trainers who have kept quiet and are very, very annoyed with the way it's been handled"Credit: Edward Whitaker (

Paul Nicholls has expressed his frustration at the BHA over its handling of the new whip rules that caused controversy after being implemented just weeks before the Cheltenham Festival.

The 13-time champion trainer was one of the first to feel the effects of the new regulations when stable jockey Lorcan Williams was ruled out of the festival due to an 18-day ban following a winning ride at Haydock last month.

The ban was one of 20 handed out during the opening week of the new regulations, with a further nine jockeys handed suspensions this week.

"I've been livid all along with the timing of it," Nicholls said exclusively on Betfair's Cheltenham preview, which is available across Betfair channels from 7pm on Friday evening.

"I'm actually disappointed with the way BHA have handled it – talk about shooting the industry in the foot.

"There are people in the BHA who need to take a real look at themselves. Are they doing the right thing for the industry? Because I think they are letting us down and I think this whole thing is wrong.

"There are a lot of us trainers who have kept quiet and are very, very annoyed with the way it's been handled and it's not just trainers, a lot of owners upset about the whole thing and it will drive people away if they are not careful."

Nicholls was critical of the reasoning behind the changes, which BHA chief executive Julie Harrington outlined were part of an effort to improve perceptions of welfare in order to attract new fans when speaking to the Racing Post in Melbourne last month.

Nicholls said: "We don't want to appease people who don't understand the game. We've got to stand up for ourselves and say look this is where we are, it's not a welfare issue.

"The BHA need a bit of backbone to stand up for us, but nothing seem to be simple with the BHA these days. It's sad, because they've got a tough job to do, but I think honestly they need to take a look at themselves and see what they are doing towards the industry and they need to be a little more proactive at getting things right."

The trainer also discussed his leading Cheltenham hopes and indicated the Turners Novices' Chase would be the likely destination for 14-1 shot Stage Star, who was a shorter price to take a step up in trip for the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase.

"The Turners track suits him on the Thursday," he said. "That is the favourite for him to run, over the Brown Advisory.

"You have to look at the opposition and go with the race where you think you have the best chance. You should never be afraid of one horse but I've just got a feeling he needs another summer. I don't think he's the finished article yet but he'll be in the mix."

'I can't wait'

Greaneteen was confirmed for the Champion Chase following a gallop at Lambourn this week and Nicholls remained confident in his Gold Cup hope Bravemansgame, who is 13-2 to become the trainer's first winner of the race since Kauto Star in 2009.

"He was so good in the King George that we knew we had to enter him in the Gold Cup," he said. "I am convinced he will be bang in there at the second-last. I think he will get the trip and be fine. I can't wait – he deserves to be second favourite.

"Any horse can win the Gold Cup. They are all good horses, that's why they are in there. It's a hell of a race."

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Read more:

Second disqualification for overuse of the whip as review committee finds nine riders in breach of new rules 

'He's probably my best chance since Kauto' - Nicholls excited by Gold Cup challenge with Bravemansgame 

Watch: 2023 Cheltenham Festival stable tour with champion trainer Paul Nicholls 

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Catherine MacraeReporter
Published on 3 March 2023Last updated 15:56, 3 March 2023