TWE - VIEW: Whip Ban Debate

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Whip Ban Debate

Currently, the primary continuous and contentious issue in horse racing is the use of the whip amongst riders.

In generic terms, a whip is a tool specifically designed to strike horses in the aid to guide them towards an intended target or to exert control over the situation.

Typically a bendy stick, it is not a hazardous object - instead it generates a sound to remind horse's of their respective tasks and for riders to get the best out of their mount when calling for maximum effort, particularly in the closing stages of a racing contest.

Any use of the whip by a jockey must not only be appropriate, proportionate or professional, but by also taking account of the 'Rules of Racing' and in depth guidelines laid out by the British Horseracing Authority.

The permitted number of uses of the whip - with hands off the reins, is seven times for Flat races and eight times for Jumps race.

Stewards will consider whether to hold an enquiry if a rider has used his whip eight times or more in a Flat race or nine times or more in a Jump race - or misused in some other way.

When deciding whether or not to hold an enquiry following racing replays, stewards will also consider how the rider has used the whip during a race; with particular attention to its use in the latter stages, and relevant factors such as the manner and purpose for which it was used.

Despite constant reassurances, it is unsurprising to see many people against it's nature.

Of course, the first point of call is to drop the whip completely - which sounds like a pretty obvious solution.

However, the cons for this argument means it could be harder for humans to control horses and for jockeys to get the best out of them in racing contests, leaving things like track records left unbroken.

Minor details to some admittably, but racing wants the best racing possible.

If a horse is dropping in speed or motivation, a kick up the backside could help get them going again and keep them in the race!

Without this tool, AP McCoy would have never achieved victory in the 2009 William Hill Trophy aboard Wichita Lineman, one of the greatest rides in the sport's history. Racing wants to keep the whip for these instances, as long as it is managed efficiently and legally.

This debate does not just regard the overuse of the whip in terms of horse morals and ethics though and whether there should be stricter punishment for breaches, but also concerning if jockeys overuse it to gain an unfair advantage against competitors in races.

Royal Ascot hosted thirty races over the last week - six per day, and it saw as many as ten jockeys banned for whip-offences throughout the week.

Jim Crowley (Afaak, Hunt Cup), Harry Bentley (Biometric, Britannia) and Hayley Turner (Thanks Be, Sandringham) all went over the permitted levels when gaining narrow victories in their contests at the royal meeting.

There is the obvious pressure on the riders to deliver the goods for connections in the big races, and of course they want the maximum effort out of their runners on the track to give them every chance of success.

But surely this cannot be deemed fair - any other sport flags up participants for breaking the rules set, so why is it not the same in horse racing?

All of Jim Crowley, Harry Bentley and Hayley Turner all retained their respective winners medals, and will happily shake off and switch a few days banned on the sidelines for a winner at the highest level; especially if you are the first female rider since 1987 to ride a winner at the prestigious meeting.

As for the stewards, it is beginning to get to the point where they feel the deterrents on the bans they distribute are not respected or valued, and the only way to overcome this is to install a certain degree of disqualification to get the message across stronger.

A lower cut in the prize-money has been a useful idea put forward by some, but many are calling for the horse to be demoted in the placings should overuses occur, and that will bring an end to this saga.

One example - Jim Crowley has asked Afaak for further effort than necessary in the Royal Hunt Cup than any of the other riders in the big handicap on Wednesday, resulting in getting more out of the horse unfairly and unduly, with a greater risk of injury or scarring being applied to the horse long term.

It is essentially cheating, and although the horse does not have a say in how the rider behaves, there is little option for the equine star if they are knocked off first place given how they were ridden.

As for other jockeys - John Velazquez got nine days suspension, whilst Champion Jockey Silvestre de Sousa got seven for similar offences.

Velazquez is based in the United States and simply failed to adjust to the different whip rules in the United Kingdom which can be understood to a certain level for now, but for experienced riders like De Sousa - regulars in this sphere, totting-up bans for repeated breaches of the whip is getting somewhat ridiculous now.

VAR has been introduced into football to make sure referees get the correct decision in matches.

The technology has been under scrutiny but will get to a successful stage to be used over all leading formats of the game - the same way goal-line technology made sure that Liverpool did not score a lawless goal against Manchester City in the Premier League, which would have drastically and unfairly altered the eventual title victors.

Currently still under trial, VAR does achieve correct results despite it's delays and controversy, and the model will improve with greater understanding and experience in the game going forward.

Meanwhile, stewards in racing have always had the facilities to watch back races afterwards, to determine whether there is anything ill-advised going on with not just the winners or placee's, but all participants in the field.

All horses should be ridden appropriately and professionally as already labelled, with equine welfare to the fore and not prioritising racing results - if the horse is good enough, they will win.

The British Horseracing Authority are set to once more reflect on whether the current rules are sufficient enough to provide proper punishment for those found to be breaking the rules.

Either drop the whip completely, or raise the punishment levels.

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