THE new whip rules in Britain were made public earlier this week and when reading through, I felt a bit of Macbeth coming on - “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well, It were done quickly.”
All this pro/con, Pro-Cush talk is getting nowhere and, with everyone offering their opinions from different perspectives of the sport, it’s just keeping the wrong issues in the headlines.
But then I thought, it might be a case of First they came for…
And that is the shadow in the background, that by continuing to give concessions to those who will never be satisfied, and who indeed, probably don’t even watch enough to see if new concessions are actually changing how things look, we will be forced to give more.
It was perfectly acceptable to look at two videos doing the social media rounds on Tuesday and say that both, offering different sides and arguments over the increased sanctions and possible disqualifications, were correct.
Sir Mark Prescott in a 2019 interview at Goodwood, wanted to disqualify a winner whose rider went over the limit. Do it early in the season and immediately there would be full compliance, no one would risk going over ever again.
Ted Walsh, also interviewed by Lydia Hislop on Racing TV, this time at Cheltenham in 2019 after a controversial National Hunt Chase and rider bans - said ‘if you don’t like it, don’t look’. The 60,000 or 70,000 people, all invested racegoers, at Cheltenham that day would find nothing offensive. If you didn’t like it, go watch Peppa Pig.
In the first analysis, the new rules might not see too many changes.
Jockeys in Britain will be allowed to use the whip only in the backhand position and disqualification will be introduced as the ultimate sanction for whip overuse. The current permitted level is eight over jumps and seven strikes on the flat respectively.
Disqualification will occur when a jockey uses the whip four times over the limits - 12 times in a jumps race or 11 times on the flat. That does seem to be within a reasonable amount to still give leeway for a few errors of judgement in the heat of the moment.
The obvious concern is to end up with a high-profile race caught up in controversy, with amateur rider Sam Waley Cohen receiving a nine-day whip ban and fine for misuse in this year’s Grand National and the implications that would mean, firstly for betting and general media coverage if he was disqualified 15 minutes later.
Consider too in that same category one of the most popular winners of any big race in the last five years – Native River in the Gold Cup where Richard Johnson was banned for seven days and fined £6,550 after being found guilty of misusing his whip during the course of his Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup success.
He probably didn’t even need to use the whip so much – he got caught up in the euphoria of the race.
But for Native River to be disqualified would have been one of the worst results for racing and upset virtually every person at that Festival. Not to mention leave the weekend media publications without any winning celebratory photographs.
The proposed suspension for riders following a disqualification is 28 days in a major race (from nine). That again is quite stiff and surely a massive deterrent.
The increased use of the term Pro Cush is pointless. The thing looks like a whip, it’s a padded whip, with foam on the end that doesn’t mark or hurt.
I would argue too, that if it is the idea that it is causing pain to a horse that is unpalatable then there are other things to look at. The vigorous use of the heels by many riders in a finish, squeezing into the flank and stifle area might also hurt? Quite a few riders, especially over jumps, are strong with the leg use.
And you will often hear pundits and riders use the phrase ‘gave him a kick in the belly’. Whoa! Take that out of context a minute. I’ll take that padded whip any day.
Instead of trying to appease so many who do not not understand, who do not regularly watch the sport, try some basic facts.
Neil Callan got it spot on in his Racing Post interview this week: I think the whole whip review has been a joke. If they spent as much money and put as much time into trying to make racing better – as in educating people about the sport and putting in bigger prize money – as they have into this whip review, racing would be flying by now.
Let’s assume that an average horse runs 10 times a year. That he will be asked for maximum effort with seven strikes from the padded whip in the final two furlongs of his races. That works out at four minutes of the year.
And there is little or no evidence of it suffering any trauma, horses prick their ears once the rider begins to pull up plus they receive extra affection for success.
The big issue remains that if you concede to antis, or this ‘public perception’ that comes from a minority of causally interested viewers, and continue to change to suit them, then where does it all stop.
When the really unpalatable stuff that cannot be visually ‘improved,’ or ‘Pro-Cushed’, hits us.
A few of the worst moments in the last few years that I’ve seen for the sport, were the final appearances of popular horses like Croco Bay, Whisper and Master Tommytucker.
There is no way of putting a Pro-Cush spin on those, so what do we do then?
Our sport, our livelihood, our passion, that has lasted centuries, is being attacked from various angles.
And rather than fight back with the vast power it has, seems quite happy to die quietly, like an old dog.
Potentially disastrous for the sport and remains to be seen if stewards enforce it in a prestigious/major betting race.
Disastrous indeed. Just one DQ’d winner of a classic, National or Gold Cup will trash punter confidence, and make British Racing unviable as a betting medium. Complex new rules, review committees and all, this is an appalling dereliction of @BHAPressOffice’s duty
Whip rules: A fair attempt by the BHA. Not quite a silk purse, but no longer a sow’s ear, either. I suspect we will see more interference close home for the first few weeks as jockeys learn to rebalance themselves for backhand use.
I cannot see how this mess helps anyone, either we say the pro-cush whip does not hurt & we can use it within the rules or we cannot say that & we shouldn’t be using it at all, if its about perception hitting them is hitting them public wont know diff between fore or back hand.