“We always have had the view that any changes to the whip rules need to be discussed and implemented nationally. We would not be supportive of Racing Victoria going off and making their own rules up.”
As an initial step RV will press for a vote at the November 2020 Racing Australia Board meeting for a “significant” reduction in the number of whip strokes allowed per race.
It is arguing for a maximum of between five and eight, with the new framework to take effect from January 1 next year.
They also want to forbid jockeys from striking a horse in consecutive strides as a means of encouraging it to go faster or try harder, as they currently are allowed to do in the closing stages of races.
Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson says action is vital to safeguard the sport’s future.
“Making progress on whip reform is important if we want to retain our existing audiences and ensure that we’re an attractive option for the fans and employees of tomorrow,” Thompson said.
“It is Racing Victoria’s view that progress on whip reform is needed now, and that the industry should continue to work towards a prohibition on the use of the whip for purposes other than to protect the safety of horses and jockeys … jockey safety is something that we will always advocate.
Australian racing has been left behind when it comes to reforms on whip use.
Giles Thompson, Racing Victoria chief executive
“Britain, Ireland, France, Germany and key states in the USA have either implemented or announced significant reductions in permitted whip use and have seen great competitive racing continue. At this time Australian racing has been left behind when it comes to reforms on whip use.”
Thompson says the best outcome will always come if the industry acts with uniformity rather than through a piecemeal package of reforms enacted state by state.
But, Racing Victoria warns, if it cannot broker a consensus then it will go it alone as it looks to “achieve meaningful progress”.
“Ensuring that Australian racing retains its existing audiences and attracts new fans and employees is vital to securing the ongoing sustainability of the sport and locally, the 25,000 full-time equivalent jobs it supports in Victoria,” RV said in a statement.
“To achieve that, the industry must continually reflect the values of the community in which it operates.”
Bookmaker Ladbrokes says any reduction in whip use would not be expected to have “any adverse effect on wagering and can only improve the image of the racing industry”.
“Ladbrokes strongly supports whip reform and Racing Victoria is to be applauded for taking this proactive stance. Racing needs to evolve and find ways to appeal to a broader audience and it is clear current guidelines around the use of the whip fly in the face of community expectations,” Ladbrokes CEO Dean Shannon said.
Permitted whip use in other countries: Britain (7 times per race), Ireland (8), Germany (5), France (5) and in the USA, the states of California and Kentucky have announced reductions to six.
Michael Lynch is The Age’s chief soccer reporter and also reports on motor sport and horseracing