Crop Use Control – We Dont Have To Do It This Way!

This rule is really unfair!

WSB Cape Town Met winning jockey Richard Fourie’s R25 000 fine for exceeding the crop use limit by one strike has ignited plenty of debate again about what is an ongoing hot topic!

It’s time for the law makers at the NHRA to admit they bungled with their obviously well-intentioned crop-use laws.

So suggests Tony Mincione of Knysna who writes in the Sporting Post Mailbag that for a start, you can’t have your cake and eat it. 

What this means is you can’t legislate the composition of a riding crop so that it’s animal friendly and argue that it’s to make the device painless, and then count whip strokes of that same device.

Greg Wood of The Guardian (UK) interviewed Grade 1 winning jockey Jim Crowley.  “He hit me three times in quick succession on the palm of the hand yesterday afternoon, the third time “as hard as I’d ever hit a horse” and, thanks to the design of his lightweight, foam-cushioned whip, I scarcely felt a thing.”

Read that story here for some background.

Jockey Bernard Fayd’herbe copped a R40 000 fine in the King’s Plate on Al Muthana as he rallied down the outside rail to catch the 2/10 favourite Charles Dickens.

The stipes report reads:

Jockey B Fayd’Herbe was charged with a contravention of Rule 58.10.2 (read with Guideline M on the use of the crop) in that he misused his crop by striking AL MUTHANA (AUS) more than 12 times in the entire race. Jockey B Fayd’Herbe signed an admission of guilt and was fined R40000,00. In determining penalty, the Board took into account the distance over and manner in which Jockey B Fayd’Herbe used his crop, the number of strikes (16) and the value and status of this race.

Watch the replay here:

The NHRA are the referees of the sport and are paid as professionals to sit in judgement of other professionals. 

I can, of course, sit in judgement of them for free. 

Here is how I would rule:  If I owned Al Muthana I would publicly pay for Fayd’herbe’s fine with a letter of thanks.  I would acknowledge that with victory in sight, how could he have been expected to change a single thing in those dying yards?

If the senior jockey let up in any way at all the gelding could have taken it as a signal that the race is over.  The winning margin was 0,30 lengths. What is that, 70cm?

Jet Dark (pink cap) surges forward to win the WSB Cape Town Met (Pic – Candiese Lenfrena)

Then fast forward to another summer Gr1 highlight, the WSB Cape Town Met.

The NHRA reported:

At an Inquiry held in Cape Town, on 9 February 2023, Jockey R Fourie was charged with a contravention of Rule 58.10.2 read with Guideline M on the use of the crop. The particulars being that whilst riding JET DARK in the World Sports Betting Cape Town Met (Grade 1) at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth Racecourse on 28 January 2023, he misused his crop by striking this horse more than 12 times in the entire race.

Jockey Fourie pleaded guilty and was found guilty of the charge. In determining an appropriate penalty, the Stewards took into account the value and status of the race, the distance over and the manner in which Jockey Fourie used his crop, the number of strikes over the permissible level (1) and Jockey Fourie’s recent record regarding contraventions of this Rule and Guideline.A penalty of a fine of R25 000.00 (twenty-five thousand rand) was imposed.Jockey Fourie was given the Right of Appeal against the penalty imposed.

Watch the replay here:

This time the winning margin was 0,20 lengths.  This time it was an extra stroke of the airwhip.

Just these two events surely prove that the rule is ridiculous on the face of it, and that it’s a lousy requirement for the NHRA to have to enforce.  It’s apparent that they are enforcing a rule and trapped into making the penalty ‘meaningful’.  It’s a bad rule that is forcing bad rulings.

When a jockey is brought up on charges that they ‘didn’t try hard enough’, no one counts the whip strokes and suggests, “You only whipped the horse 9 times, it’s clear you didn’t ride the horse out.”

If the Stipes are able to apply their judgement as to when a jockey hasn’t given his best, surely these very officials can apply the same common sense to whether a jockey has ‘abused’ an animal.

To further protect the horse there are the owners, the trainers, any stipe watching a TV, and, for that matter, the entire public.

Our jockeys are quick to chirp.  A bunch of them have taken the stick to offenders in their own ranks.  Others have taken to scratching horses at the start themselves.

Whatever you might think of these things, they are not covering up much, or otherwise covering up rather badly.  On the whole we would find out soon enough about horse abuse from within.  Much the same as dangerous riding.

In our country we watch as public enterprises fail one after the other because of red tape, lack of initiative, apathy and incompetence, if not corruption.  We don’t have to do it that way.

In fact, this is a more than usually unfair rule.  All of the responsibility is on the jockey, while the outcome affects many.

In an instant where a jock doesn’t know whether he’s on 10 or 12 strikes, in a high stakes moment – a moment which can be life changing for the owner, the breeder, the trainer, and who knows how many punters – that’s when we choose to second guess the guy (or gal) in the hotseat?  It’s shameful.

Perhaps the fine should be a percentage of the whole stakes cheque, and then let’s see if we then all think this is a good idea!  We don’t have to do it that way.

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