Richard Hughes has handed in his jockey licence over the new whip rules introduced this week.
I have some sympathy for him. In fact quite a lot. Jockeys are paid to do a job: to get their horse into the best possible finishing position in a race – preferably in the money if not the winner’s enclosure.
Hughes is not against hitting horses less during a race. This is where we slightly part company.
I am against hitting horses in a race, but if you are allowed to carry a whip and everyone else is using them to achieve the stated aim of achieving the best finishing position whaddya gonna do?
Asking someone to count the times they use the whip, and confine yourself to only 5 uses in the last furlong (the one where you ride the finish) is asking people to distract themselves from the task in hand. Pass the final furlong pole, ask or keep your horse up to its effort, bring it wide or find a gap, keep it straight and count, count, count, count, count. Richard Hughes used his whip 6 times – you can use it for a total of 7 in a race, but no more than 5 of those must be in the final furlong – so he’s in breach of the new rules.
He’s one of our most experienced jockeys and I am sure he can count, but expecting people to work one way for years and then just switch to another is asking a lot. Hughsie said on the radio this morning jockeys had been trying to practice it a bit in the run-up to the new rule; clearly it’s not worked.
When I was first into racing I was in a racing club where the horses were raced without shoes and the jockey was not allowed to use the whip. The jockey had to carry one in accordance with the Rules of Racing, but the trainer and owners stipulated it was not to be used. Incredibly, for those people who couldn’t countenance racing without hitting horses, sometimes these horses won races. And I can tell you as a spectacle and as someone who respects and appreciates animals it’s far more attractive and enjoyable to pick up some winnings without your jockey picking up a whip ban.
Just get rid of the damn thing and have done. Good riders will manage without them perfectly well. Lazy horses might be more lazy, but so what? Horses might run straight when they aren’t running away from the whip, so we might see less inteference in finishes and the wider public will have to lose the perception that animals are beaten in the pursuit of entertainment and money.
Asking professional riders to count up to 5 in the final furlong is a multitask too far it seems.
This is not the post Daftburger hopes it is…
I read yesterday that Joseph O’Brien has been banned for three days for the above after riding his father’s-trained Battleoftrafalgar in the 1m4f maiden at the Curragh. He is awaiting the outcome of an appeal about two bans he has recently picked up for careless riding. Careless riding happens, but is potentially more dangerous so I hope they don’t lift the ban (Not lifted according to the Racing Post website).
Excessive use of the whip is extremely upsetting. It puts the sport in a bad light and sours horses. You don’t accidentally beat the shit of a horse and they tend not to run too well afterwards either. I’d be wary of backing that poor horse in future.
Young Joseph probably has lost his head on account of the Irish apprentice jockey’s title being close at hand – hopefully having now slipped through his slap-happy fingers. If he was here in my front room now I would say this to him.
“Listen fella, you will forget which horses you gave one too many cracks to in your young haste to win races and claim titles, but the horses won’t. Your father can provide you with plenty enough ammunition that you will be sitting pretty in the jockey tables whether you ride like a finessed Jamie Spencer or a meat and two veg Seb Sanders. Don’t cheapen yourself further by hitting a sentient being when it is probably giving most of its all.”
Throw the book at him and let him learn his lessons now. It’s too late for his father who was also fined for issuing whip instructions that directly contravened the rules. If ever I needed a reminder why I generally oppose the Ballydoyle might then this would be it.