Curbing whip misuse
Deterring misuse of the whip
There’s a certain amount of risk involved when expressing a view about the whip. Amongst racing people it raises passionate reactions and those who query its necessity and use can face considerable wrath.
But to ignore such concerns and condemn those who raise legitimate questions is tantamount to burying one’s head in the sand.
For what it’s worth, I have no difficulty with the whip being used provided it meets BHA requirements, is not objected to by the RSPCA and is used by jockeys in accordance with the rules of racing.
I am however fully aware that its existence is upsetting to many, whether they follow racing or not.
Such views can mean they dislike the sport and leave it at that or they can campaign against it, particularly if they are entrenched activists with a dogmatic agenda.
An important aspect is to keep the RSPCA on-side, and their recent concerns that it’s not always possible to check that a whip being used is one which meets the BHA specifications should be heeded.
But that is not necessarily where all the risk to racing lies.
Where the damage can be done is when a widely-read, but non-racing, sports columnist mentions whip offences, as was the case with Brian Reade in the Daily Mirror in a brief mention of this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
He picked up on the bans handed out by stewards and mentioned it as a negative aspect of an otherwise exciting sporting event. Such observations can gain traction with readers.
The issue for me regarding the whip is that the deterrent for its mis-use is not sufficient to prevent jockeys adopting something akin to win at all costs in prestigious races. The resultant suspension is compensated for by the value of the prize-money and the quite likely ‘compensation’ paid by a grateful owner if the jockey has to take a ‘holiday’.
It would be too draconian for a horse to lose a race in the stewards’ room because of the over-zealous use of the whip by a jockey, but it might change minds if the connections were impacted in some other way.
Maybe the affected placings remain unaltered and a winner keeps the race in name, but prize-money is forfeited if there is a breach of the whip rules. Miss out say on a share of £1m up for next year’s Ebor Handicap, and there might be second-thoughts about over-use of the whip and the subsequent negative headlines and comment it attracts.t
Edinburgh rock and a hard place
When the breakdown took place in relations between the Lothian Racing Syndicate members of the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee and the representatives of East Lothian Council, these scribblings queried the desirability of a local authority being involved in the running of a racecourse.
What looked like a solution, after the BHA threatened to remove the track’s operating licence, was the commissioning of an independent report reviewing the racecourse’s governance.
That report has now been delivered to East Lothian Council and their response has been to introduce a council let committee with the Syndicate’s representation reduced from three to two – effectively putting the course under local authority control.
Whilst the report was being compiled, the track on the outskirts of Edinburgh was granted a temporary licence by the BHA which is due to run out imminently.
East Lothian Council should not under any circumstances be running a racecourse and, however risky it is for the BHA to play hardball, the temporary licence should not be renewed whilst the council has any aspirations to run Musselburgh Racecourse.
Under the bonnet of racing
Think Haynes Manuals and your first thought might be something kept in the glove-compartment of a Ford Zodiac. But the Haynes range extends beyond car maintenance and a new addition to the list is the Haynes Horse Racing Manual.
The aim of the book is to make racing accessible to those new to the sport. In this it goes far beyond the usual introductory guides of providing a glossary of technical terms which is often hit-and-miss, the different types of races and how to place a bet, albeit that these aspects are admirably covered by the Manual.
What makes the book different is its treatment of all elements of racing, from the role of trainers and jockeys and teaching a horse how to race, to becoming an owner or being a professional gambler.
Along the way author Tom Peacock covers the intricacies of going racing, how to understand racecard information and a guide to the top racecourse both in Britain and overseas.
Lavishly produced, little is overlooked but maybe one or two topics could be sacrificed for more practical information such as a betting odds table and guide to all the country’s racecourses.
That said, the book is ideal for someone who has shown an interest in racing and now wants a stepping-stone from the more basic guides to something which takes their understanding of the sport to the next level, something which the Manual effectively delivers.
Horse Racing Manual by Tom Peacock, Haynes Publishing £22.99