In Australia, the rule is no more than five strikes before the 100m and then use of the whip at the discretion of a rider but they can’t use it in consecutive strides.
Racing Victoria recently updated its penalties and have made them stricter with suspensions more likely. Anything more than five strikes before the 100m and anything more than 12 to 15 times is regarded as excessive in a race.
RV Executive General Manager – Integrity Services, Jamie Stier, said the use of the whip and associated breaches of the national rule had garnered much debate.
Stier said after extensive consultation they adjusted the penalty guidelines from August 1 which would provide greater clarity for all parties.
“All riders are expected to compete in accordance with the national rules and to that end, they should not use their whip outside the permitted limits,” Stier said.
Former champion jockeys Alf Matthews and Patrick Payne, while not being fans of strong whip riders, believe it is an essential safety tool for jockeys to have with them, although they are happy we have moved on from the days where jockeys were celebrated for their vigorous use of the whip.
Matthews, along with another former star jockey Darren Gauci, are the coaches at the Victorian Apprentice School.
Matthews said they are teaching them to urge their mounts at the end of a race and not strike them repeatedly.
“We try to teach the apprentices how to use it as a tool of the trade.”
Looking back on his own riding experience, Matthews said the whip saved him on many occasions.
“If I didn’t have it, it would have led to some seriously dangerous moments, and the last thing any jockey needs is a fall.”
Patrick Payne was a champion jockey in Australia and in Hong Kong who was respected for his hands-and-heels style of riding.
Now, as a successful trainer, Payne shies away from using jockeys who have a reputation as whip riders on his horses.
“I’ve never been a fan of big whip riders. I like to put jockeys on who don’t hit too much. The jockeys I use aren’t whip riders. I’d rather they guide a horse through a race and then use their hands and heels,” Payne said.
Payne believes stewards shouldn’t be tied down by rules when assessing whether a jockey has over-used the whip but should rely on their experience to pick up breaches.
“Leave it up to the stewards and let them use their common sense. Stewards should have enough discretion to discipline jockeys who have gone too far,”
“I think that’s the best approach. When the stewards watch a race and have seen jockeys have used their whip excessively, then they should be penalised.”
Australian Jockeys’ Association chief executive Martin Talty said jockeys needed to adapt to the whip rule or they would be fined or suspended, with figures demonstrating that they overwhelmingly had been.
“There are around 175,000 to 180,000 horses which start in races each year and not many jockeys break the rules. It’s minuscule.
“Unfortunately, you hear about them more than other charges such as careless riding. It seems to be amplified in the stewards’ report,” Talty said.
Since this article was written, Racing Victoria has announced that it is seeking national action on whip reform in Australian thoroughbred racing prior to the end of 2020. RV is of the view that a new framework is required to transition the industry to an ultimate prohibition on use of the whip for purposes other than to protect the safety of horses and jockeys.
RV will be seeking a vote at the November 2020 Racing Australia (RA) Board meeting that the transition commences with a significant reduction in the permitted use of the whip in a race. RV will propose that, from 1 January 2021, riders are only permitted to use the whip on a maximum number of occasions throughout the entire race and never in a horse’s consecutive strides. RV is proposing that the maximum number be between five and eight occasions per race.
Whip reform is also under consideration in the US, with California and New Jersey set to implement new restrictions within the next few months, while the topic will be debated at an upcoming New York State Gaming Commission board meeting. As of 1 October 2020, riders in California will be restricted to a maximum of six strikes in an underhand motion per race and never in consecutive strikes, with California Horse Racing Board Executive Director Scott Chaney has said that he would like to see whip use eventually eliminated altogether. In New Jersey, starting with the 2021 season at Monmouth Park in January, jockeys will not be allowed to whip a horse at all other than when there are safety concerns.