Ahead of the Grand National, the British Horseracing Authority have issued a warning to jockeys about overusing their whips and will put “temporary measures” in place to try and deter riders. Several jockeys who competed at Cheltenham Festival were suspended for excessive use of the whip and for failing to pull up tired horses and the BHA will continue to clampdown if jockeys are excessively using their whips during the four-day event, as will the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board also aiming to cut down usage.
As it stands, Flat races in England allow up to seven strikes whereas it’s eight for jumps. In Ireland, they’re going to make it mandatory that no more than nine strikes can be used in both flats and jumps but that won’t be enforced until later in the year. A lot will hinge on if there are any further punishments following on from Cheltenham and we could see a stern restriction come the National.
From an Irish perspective, the move comes after a spike in whip offences throughout 2018 and that has played a major role in how the BHA have addressed the issue ahead of the two biggest racing events on the calendar.
“Jockeys will be reminded of their responsibilities in regards to the whip in the build-up to the Cheltenham Festival and at the new, mandatory daily briefings,” the spokesman said. “If it is felt necessary following the Festival that temporary measures should be considered to provide a greater level of deterrent to riders, then broader penalty provisions may be put in place ahead of the next major event.
“More generally, the BHA is aware that the whip continues to be a topic of debate. We are alive to that debate and listening to it with interest.
“The sport is currently developing an industry-wide welfare strategy which will include further consideration of the use of the whip in British racing. We also note that Britain’s approach to the whip was recently endorsed by the UK government who stated that it is ‘satisfied that the rules in place are sufficient to restrict and limit the use of the whip in horse racing’.”
A change is necessary
Whatever happens following the Cheltenham Festival with regards to the use of the whip, the general consensus is that the decision has been somewhat long overdue. With that said, British offences have actually dropped in recent years but there have been some standout cases which have brought talk of a clampdown to the surface.
The major issue does stem from Irish races, but the problem at hand does need to be addressed across the board, and France are leading the way in many respects. All meetings in France will see the whip being used less than five times across flats and jumps, just a couple of years after they reduced it from eight to six.
The matter has even been discussed in parliament, with Labour MP Chris Williamson calling the use of the whip “barbaric”. The debate itself arose from an e-petition which was set up by animal rights group Animal Aid, who accumulated more than 100,000 signatures calling for excessive whipping to be cut down or stopped completely.
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