British horse racing's richest day Oct. 15 could be overshadowed by a growing feud over new whip rules that has led one jockey to quit before the big day at Ascot.
British Champions Day features the unbeaten colt Frankel in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I), with Queen Elizabeth II expected to attend a race to be televised in at least 75 countries.
Irish jockey Richard Hughes, though, has caused a stir by handing in his racing license after being banned on two occasions during the first week of new rules limiting the number of times a rider can use his whip on a horse at the end of the race.
Following Hughes' move, Frankel's jockey Tom Queally criticized the new rules and expressed support for his fellow rider.
"Introducing the new rules this week is rank bad timing and it's appalling for the sponsors QIPCO, who have invested so much into flat racing and the British Champions Series," Queally wrote in a blog for British TV's Racing UK.
"All the talk today should have been about the British Champions Day at Ascot, but there hasn't been a word about it. I feel very sorry for the sponsors. I obviously also feel sorry for Richard Hughes, who I am pretty friendly with and is one of the most respected guys in the weighing room."
Hughes said he won't race again unless the rules are changed. He was given a 10-day suspension for breaching the new regulations at Kempton Oct. 13 when finishing second on More Than Words. He was also given a ban Oct. 10, the first day the new rules were enforced.
On both occasions, he was cited for using the whip six times inside the final furlong, with the new regulations only allowing a maximum of five.
"He's hit his horse six times on the two occasions he's been done, and he gets a 15-day ban for it"' Queally said. "It's like getting 15 years for stealing a loaf of bread ... the penalties need to be far less draconian."
The Professional Jockeys Association has asked the British Horseracing Authority to revise the range of penalties.
Although Queally said Oct. 14 there ``is talk of a strike on Monday (Oct. 17),'' the BHA later announced that talks will be held with the jockeys Oct. 17.
"We will not be suspending the current rules pending these discussions, but we do commit to resolving this matter as quickly as possible while ensuring that due process is followed," the BHA said.
The courses due to stage Oct. 17's fixtures said they have not been told of any potential action.
"Richard said he felt sorry for me if I was in a position where I would have to exceed the seven on Frankel to get him home by a short head," Queally said. "My job is to extract the best out of my horse and any jockey worth his salt has an overwhelming desire to win, but obviously rules have to be obeyed."
Frankel, a 3-year-old colt named for the Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who died in 2009, has commanded interest in Britain with a breakthrough year. He has won all eight of his races and a victory Oct. 15 on day with nearly $5 million in prize money could lead to a possible start in the Breeders' Cup next month.
"Nothing has been decided and nothing will get decided until after the race on Saturday," said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Frankel's breeder and owner, Khalid Abdullah.
Frankel is the 1-3 favorite with most bookmakers, with the filly Immortal Verse (6-1) likely to be the closest of the seven challengers.