When a jockey spends hours eating conservatively and sweating to take weight off to ride, achieves the goal of a victory for the connections, and then gets told by a guy in a suit, who has probably never ridden, that he is being fined for contravening a crop rule, then we could be sitting on a time bomb.
That’s the opinion of a few seasoned racing folk canvassed by the Sporting Post this week.
While it doubtless has all the very best intentions of winning the hearts and minds of the ‘horseracing is just plain cruel’ lobby, the National Horseracing Authority’s twelve strike amendment to their rule 58.10.2 implemented last Friday has already seen sixteen infringements at a gross penalty revenue of just under R10 000. That sum looks likely to swell as the weeks pass.
The four Workrider infringements meted out on Saturday at Turffontein resulted in suspensions.
The top two jockeys were both given fines for their rides in the Scottsville second race – watch the clip:
The professional jockeys who have already incurred the wrath of the Stipes include top men like Stuart Randolph, Anton Marcus, Bernard Fayd’herbe, Richard Fourie and Craig Zackey.
“The issue lies not in the number of strikes but rather in the way that the tool is used. Getting a horse into position from the draw for example just after the start may need two smacks. An early position is a vital part of race-riding as the contest is often won or lost metres after the break. Now the jockey must think about those two guiding strikes, when he is riding a driving finish maybe 1600m later,” said veteran past champion jockey Garth Puller, who pointed out that the whip was a vital part of a horseman’s equipment going back in history.
“The new crop is cushioned and it doesn’t inflict pain. It’s a persuader and an instruction to a horse. It has a safety and an encouragement aspect to it. Most jockeys know how to use it properly. And I am all for control and restrictions – it definitely can’t be a free for all. And it cannot be used on consecutive strides as we are well versed with. But how much genuine thought and consultation went into this new rule?” he asked, suggesting that the real point being missed was proper education of the broader public.
Puller said that the manner of the angle of the grip and the position of the body of the rider made all the difference to the force quantum of the strike. He also said that cognisance had to be taken too of where the horse was struck – the flank, for example was a no-go area.
“I note Richard Fourie was given two fines on Tuesday. Richard has a history of using his crop with caution. He tends to give them back-handers, which are more subtle reminders, than crashing blows. Now it’s all about numbers and counting to 12. So if the jockey is riding a driving heads-up heads-down finish, and he hits number 13 and wins, that’s it? That’s ridiculous, frankly.”
Puller suggested that if we wanted to watch a ride where the whip was possibly used excessively in his personal opinion, have a look at the ‘youngster who won the last at Scottsville on Wednesday’.
“He was always in front and even when he was clear he appeared to smack his mount – so maybe he notched 11 strikes. And it wasn’t about the horse hanging. So that’s all okay, then?”he asked.
A seasoned punter told the Sporting Post that he felt that a ‘çan of worms’ had been opened up with the new rule and questioned how the Stipes, who were already under pressure on raceday, were meant to focus on other important matters of monitoring.
“If there is an objection, who deals with what? And what about a tight finish? Are the jockeys meant to stop riding with the crop two strides from the line because the magical number 12 pops up? And then we find he counted incorrectly! I saw that the example posted by the Sporting Post during the week had various people reaching varying numbers of strikes for the Zackey ride on Sunday. There is so much wrong in the game – I think they need to start with basics – focus their attention on training officials – including the starters! Racing doesn’t need these negative sideshows created by administrators who are trying to make a point!”
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