South Africa To Trial Whip-Free Races

South Africa trials whip-free races as public pressure mounts

A trial of races without the use of whips is set to be trialled in South Africa.

The decision was made due to mounting public pressure over their use, and it has sent shockwaves around the horse racing world.

Christophe Soumillon’s use of the whip on Thunder Snow at the Breeders’ Cup came into question, before six jockeys in the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday were sanctioned for their over-use - both of which has contributed to South Africa being the first country to act.

Leading South African trainer Mike de Kock has spoke in favour of the reduction of its use, following the first in the series of races, which the BHA said on Wednesday it was monitoring.

That contest, a seven-furlong maiden at Turffontein, was won on Saturday by the De Kock-trained Hawwaam, owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, just hours before the Breeders Cup Classic and the disturbing images of Soumillon aboard the runner up.

Arnold Hyde - acting chief executive of South Africa’s National Horseracing Authority, said, “Saturday’s race was a statement that needed to be made because our industry is under pressure.

"We need to attract a new audience – and there is a perception that whip use is an area of racing that may be seen in a negative light by people outside the industry.

“Therefore we wanted to press home the need for the stakeholders to seriously consider the road that we have to adopt regarding the future of crop use.

The whips used in South Africa are of the same air-cushioned style used in Britain and Ireland, designed to create a sound rather than inflict any pain, but their use has caused growing controversy in recent years

De Kock, who has had more than 100 Group and Grade 1 winners, said, "This was a good initiative and we got some good mileage out of it. In any case the whip rule needs to be looked at.

"The jockeys are better off without sticks – more of them get beaten with them than they would without them."

Hawwaam won by a length, with runner-up Reach For The Line nine lengths clear of the third. De Kock said: "This horse had never had a stick at home and there was no point in him having a stick here.

The Turffontein race, and the lessons to be learned from it, will now be discussed at next month’s meeting of the NHA’s Harmonisation of the Racing Rules Committee.

It has already caused interest in Australia where some of the stipendiary stewards were reportedly sufficiently impressed to contact Hyde and congratulate him.

A spokesman for the BHA said on Wednesday: "As part of the international racing community the BHA always monitors regulatory developments in other jurisdictions with interest."