There are to be further experimental no-whip races following last Saturday’s well-received trial at Turffontein and, while it may be quite some months down the road, there seems little doubt that whip use in South African racing is going to be restricted to a greater degree than it is at the moment.
Acting NHA chief executive Arnold Hyde told Michael Clower this week: “There is a likelihood of there being more of these races and there will be one in Central Province in the next couple of months. A date has to be decided and we also need to consider the restrictions relating to these cropless races, eg are we going to have an identical sort of race (to the one at Turffontein), are we going to allow jockeys to carry a crop but not use it, etc.”
Apparently the Charity Mile day no-whip race, the first of its kind in South Africa, was rather more than just an experiment to see whether racehorses would run, and keep straight, without the threat of a stick.
Hyde explained: “The 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 this (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 race made an impact far beyond the relatively narrow confines of this country. Stipes in Australia, despite their recent days being dominated by events in Melbourne, took time out to contact Hyde and congratulate him.
The Turffontein race, and the lessons to be learnt from it, will now be discussed at next month’s meeting of the NHA’s Harmonisation of the Racing Rules Committee.
Phumelela boss Clyde Basel also sees long term implications from Saturday and said: “It was very well received and proved a great idea. Who knows what could happen with it? There might be a series of races that could be considered. It is something we would like to take forward into the future although obviously it is all guided through the NHA.”
Training legend Mike de Kock, who trained the winner – first-timer Hawwaam, seemed much in favour when interviewed by Deez Dyanand and said: “They are better off without sticks. More of them get beaten with them than they would without them.
“A horse like this one never had a stick at home and there was no point in him having a stick here. When the horse shifted in Randall Simons (if carrying his whip in right hand) would have hit him. The horse would have then shifted out so Randall would have changed his stick and hit him again.”
By coincidence Hawwaam is owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum who for many years sponsored a series of apprentice races in Ireland in which the riders were not allowed to carry whips.
In tabonline’s pre-race strawpoll of the jockeys taking part only Raymond Danielson of the five questioned came out in favour of riding without a whip – “I’m all for it. I don’t really use the stick that much in races anyway. I find I’m a better rider with the hands.”
Nobody asked the horses but you don’t have to be an equine psychologist to conclude that they would no more vote in favour of the whip than turkeys would vote for Christmas. Seemingly, though, the pressure of public opinion is going to come to their assistance.