Only minor whip rule alterations expected

The Australian Jockeys’ Association has urged thoroughbred racing authorities not to be influenced by the decision of Harness Racing officials to ban the whip in that code.

Des O’Keeffe from the AJA said Racing Australia’s whip policy for thoroughbred racing was now “best practice” and said comparing the two codes was like “comparing apples and oranges”.

“Harness has used a much longer and thinner whip that has no padding and is in effect more like a stockwhip whereas jockeys now carry a heavily modified, much shorter and softer equestrian style riding crop that relies on a heavily foam padded flap,” O’Keeffe said.

Harness Racing Australia announced on Saturday that whips would be banned in harness racing from September 1 next year.

Racing Australia, through a sub-committee led by former chairman of stewards and Racing Australia board member Des Gleeson, has just completed a review of the whip rule in thoroughbred racing which currently permits jockeys to use the whip five times before the 100m of a race, but not in consecutive strides, with no restrictions in the final 100m.

“We are absolutely confident that the sub-committee’s recommendations when adopted will actually result in less use overall, while maintaining the safety of the riders and the integrity of our racing and most importantly, the welfare of our horses,” O’Keeffe said.

“Riders in Australia are all for responsible encouragement of their mounts and welcome the proposed addition of discretionary powers becoming available to stewards when policing the rule. Without discretion, the existing rule that was in place over the last twelve months didn’t make good sense.”

Racing Australia chairman John Messara, speaking on RSN927 on Monday, said they felt they had made sufficient changes to the whips and the whip regulations to satisfy people.

Messara said that they would be saying a little bit more about the outcome of the review shortly, but said there would not be a whole lot of change to the rules, but rather mild alterations.

“If there are changes at all it will be to give the stewards a tad more discretion, such that they can take the race as a whole rather than one part of the race and look at sort of literal, specific breaches,” Messara said.

“I think you’re going to see some changes where there will be possibly less use of the whip at the end of the race, at the terminal part of the race.

“And I’m seeing it myself and the stewards are seeing it, that jockeys are far less keen to use the whip at the end of the race now than they have been in the past.”

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