Friday, April 22, 2011


Whether you agree/disagree with banning the whip - whatever side you lie on - it still seems a joke to me why one track can change the rules from all the other tracks.

There cannot really be one rule for one track and another rule for a different track. But anyway, anyone with any bit of sense knows the world has gone mad already, every day I read the news my faith in humanity having common sense dies a little a bit more..

Towcester racecourse to ban jockeys from using the whip in races at the track

Towcester, the small rural racecourse set in some of Northamptonshire’s most picturesque countryside, is set make racing history in October when it becomes the first of Britain’s 60 tracks to outlaw the use of the whip by jockeys in any of its races.

From the track’s meeting on Oct 5 and at all fixtures afterwards, every race staged at the course will be run under rules currently in place for the successful 'hands and heels’ series of races.

This series, run in conjunction with the British and Northern racing schools, is staged at a number of tracks both Flat and jumping, and is ostensibly to teach inexperienced jockeys and amateur riders how to get the best out of a horse without recourse to the whip.

One of the rules of that series is that jockeys must carry a whip. They can pull it through from one hand to the other as often as they like and hit a horse down the shoulder with it in a backhand position. However, they cannot smack a horse down the neck in the forehand position, behind the saddle or encourage it by waving the whip parallel to its head. Failure to obey the rules in this series results in automatic disqualification. After Oct 5th, any winner at Towcester whose jockey is found by the stewards to be in breach of these rules will be disqualified.

The debate about the use of the whip, nearly 20 years after officials introduced rules to curb overuse by riders, has become racing’s hottest potato in the couple of weeks since Jason Maguire was banned for five days for 'excessive use’ on the Grand National winner Ballabriggs. Donald McCain’s giant gelding subsequently had to be dismounted and given oxygen at the end of the four and a half mile race and the spectacle was watched by millions on television.

In the week after the National the British Horseracing Authority, ironically, had more negative feedback from the public about Maguire’s use of the whip than it did about the two horses which died as a result of falls in the race.

Since then, a number of big names, many of them retired trainers and jockeys – very few active participants in the sport want changes to the Rules or the whip banned – such as Ian Balding, John Francome, Clare Balding and Sir Peter O’Sullevan, have leant their weight to a campaign to get the current whip rules altered or improved.

Towcester’s board of directors, chaired by Lord Hesketh, took the decision to stick their head above the parapet in the debate earlier this week. The racecourse’s general manager Kevin Ackerman has sent a letter to Stuart Middleton at the BHA’s Race Planning Department informing him of their plans and requesting advice on the correct procedure for implementing the Rules.

It is the board’s view that the public who attend Towcester, many of them occasional racegoers who get in free under another of the course’s innovative policies, “do not enjoy watching horses getting whipped after they have raced up our steep hill”. The letter also stressed the board’s strong reservations about the present Rules, which allow the connections of a horse to be victorious in spite of their jockey having breached the regulations.

The letter continued, however, to make it clear that they did not consider the current whip rules to represent cruelty to horses. “We wish,” it added, “to address the perception and fairness of racing at Towcester.”

The BHA has issued strict guidelines for jockeys to follow regarding the number of times the whip can be used and the manner in which it can be administered. If they are found to be in breach of these Rules, jockeys are banned for a number of days depending on the severity of the offence. Repeat offenders face even more lengthy bans.

Lord Hesketh, who retained the racecourse when he sold off the family home of Eaton Neston in 2006 having invested £7.5 million in the facilities after selling off the old racecourse stables nearer the town for housing, said: “Towcester has always been an innovative racecourse. We believe this is the way forward for the industry, as we did when we pioneered free entry in 2002.”

The topography of the racecourse, which used to be part of the parkland around Eaton Neston House, is unique in boasting the stiffest uphill finish in the country, the ground rising steeply over the last half a mile. In heavy ground even the most dour stayers find it hard work to negotiate the climb to the winning post.
The course, first used for racing in 1928, is scheduled to hold 19 meetings this year.

Clare Balding; BBC presenter
"I’m in favour of no whip or no whip after the last fence, which is what I’ve suggested to the BHA and to the jockeys – it would be better coming from them. The better riders will always come out on top. From the television perspective of wanting to make racing look beautiful it is very hard with super slow-motion, it looks worse. Ruby Walsh winning on Big Buck’s at Cheltenham, when he dropped his stick, changed my mind about it – it was the best finish of the meeting."

Paul Nicholls; Champion Jumping Trainer
"I haven’t got a strong view, but it needs a lot of quiet reflection from a few good brains rather than a lot of hot air. A lot of the suggestions would be hard to police but the day they take a high profile race off someone because he’s broken the whip rules then it will become a deterrent and virtually self-policing."

Sir Peter O’Sullevan; former BBC commentator
"I’m definitely for its use for encouragement and correction, but not chastisement. On the richter scale of cruelty it doesn’t even register but it registers most regrettably cosmetically. It is often as unnecessary as it is unappealing. To say that because a horse is spoilt that we can lay into now and again is out of order. I once congratulated Willie Shoemaker on a fine winning ride in which he didn’t use his whip. He replied: ‘I guess more horses are whipped out of the winner’s enclosure than whipped in it."

David Muir; Equine consultant to the RSPCA
"We have not been behind this campaign, it’s been media driven, and are not against the whip itself. But racing needs a good system to deal with persistent offenders. With half a hundred weight of power and temperament a jockey needs a whip for safety and correction, but when it comes to encouragement it begins to get a bit fuzzy. We are not seeking an outright ban but we can’t have some jockeys behaving the way they do."


  1. Only reason Towcester can do it is that their not a member of the RCA (The only on not to be actually) Personally I can't see it catching on, and I don't know if the BHA would even allow it.

  2. Agree, cant see the others following at all.