While the dust has settled on the Qipco Champions Day at Ascot, one major issue still clouds the world of horse racing. The whip. Talk to anyone in or out of the sport and they will have an opinion. Should it stay or should it go?
Depending on who you talk to the whip is either one of two things. It is a necessary device to control and help both the jockey and the horse win a race. Other people think it is a horrific device that is there to hurt horses or for whip happy jockeys to mercilessly whip their horse until they are out on their hoofs.
The issue of the whip was raised into the public conscience after Ballabriggs won the Aintree Grand National in April. A worldwide audience saw the winner been cooled off after the race as it looked like he may collapse.
Immediately after the race, their was an outcry from animal rights activists that horse racing is ‘cruel’. The BHA sought good publicity and announced that a review into the whip would be launched. Six months later we are living with the consequences.
While I agree that some issues with the whip needed to be addressed, the way the BHA have gone about it is wrong.
They have hamstrung the sport that I and countless other people love. To have Richard Hughes walk away from the sport was a low moment that shouldn’t have happened. The BHA have treated jockeys like they are children.
In no other sport in the world would a professional be done for trying too hard. Christophe Soumillion lost nearly £50,000 on Saturday afternoon for one slap, that if it had been 20 yards earlier he would have kept his prize money.
And for what? So that people who watch the Grand National once a year can think horse racing is a cruelty free sport? Those people need a reality slap. Horse racing is a cruelty free sport.
They should go to any stable in these Isles and see how racehorses are treated. They are treated better than some people in society. Horses are bred to race and the whip is there to help, not hurt them.
The rules, in their current format, are killing British racing. As a punter, would you back in an English race meeting? Imagine Hurricane Fly losing the Champion Hurdle by a nose because Ruby Walsh couldn’t get one more crack into him.
Would you risk your hard earned money on a race meeting where a jockey like William Buick would ‘rather finish second than get a ban’. What hope does that leave the ordinary punter?
The rules have to change. I for one, would increase the number of times you can hit the horse to 10 and remove the final furlong rule, where you can only strike them five times. This would appease both parties and allowed a greater degree of flexibility.
I hope that a common ground can be found,and until then I will stick to watching Irish racing, while the BHA pander to the animal welfare people and walk around blindfolded as English racing sinks