Keith Knight says rac­ing must act now to end the bad pub­lic­ity over whip use - or face se­vere con­se­quences

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

Keith Knight on the dan­gers of ig­nor­ing whip abuse

In my pre­vi­ous piece for this mag­a­zine, where I heaped praise on our present-day race com­men­ta­tors, I mis­tak­enly re­ferred to Richard Hoiles, the best of the best, at least in my es­ti­ma­tion, as An­drew Hoiles.

I am older than I wish to be, dear read­ers, with a brain that is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing un­fit for pur­pose. Take mercy as one day you too will be passed your best be­fore date and un­able to re­mem­ber any of the pass­words to your bet­ting ac­counts.

There was a time I could re­cite the last 50 Derby or Grand Na­tional win­ners, jock­eys, train­ers, too. Now just try­ing to re­call this year’s Derby win­ner re­quires a search party to en­ter the tum­ble-down synap­tic con­nec­tions of what passes for my brain. Once I was a worka­day Shel­don Cooper, now I am Penny, the wait­ress at the Cheese­cake Fac­tory.

Younger peo­ple, though, do not have the same ex­cuse for their mis­takes and mis­de­meanours. Jock­eys, for in­stance. They know the rules they must abide by, are re­minded of them on a reg­u­lar ba­sis through re­ports in the Rac­ing

Post when one of their num­ber ‘get’s done’ by lo­cal stew­ards or when sum­moned to Lon­don to ac­count for their mis­deeds.

I re­fer, of course, to the whip, the cush­ioned leather ‘tick­ling’ stick that is to the jockey what the smart-phone is to the teenager – a sort of com­fort blan­ket. Yet the whip, as in­nocu­ous as it might seem to the jockey, might yet be­come the im­ple­ment that sets in mo­tion the de­struc­tion of the sport we love.

Let me be more spe­cific. The Labour Party has seem­ingly got into bed with ‘An­i­mal Aid’, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that pur­ports to be a char­ity for the wel­fare of an­i­mals. An­i­mal Aid wish to see horse rac­ing, both flat and jump­ing, con­signed to his­tory along­side bear­bait­ing and other dis­hon­ourable so­called sport­ing pur­suits. The Labour Party want an in­de­pen­dent au­thor­ity to over­see wel­fare is­sues within horse rac­ing and if they come to power have a pol­icy all lined-up and ready to put into ac­tion that will set an ul­ti­mate goal of nil fa­tal­i­ties in rac­ing. Nil!

They would want to have not one sin­gle fa­tal­ity in horse rac­ing for the sport to con­tinue. It would not be a cer­tainty if nil could be achieved if it were the goal for don­keys giv­ing rides on a beach, gymkhanas or Shet­land pony Grand Na­tion­als. We all would like to achieve nil, but liv­ing within the real world rather mit­i­gates against such per­fec­tions.

An­i­mal Aid and the Labour Party may be po­lit­i­cally prej­u­diced and with­out doubt they are hyp­o­crit­i­cal, es­pe­cially the Labour Party, as should a so­cial­ist move­ment ad­vo­cate putting thou­sands upon thou­sands of men and women out of work, and blind to real is­sues of an­i­mal abuse. Point­ing it out, though, to the pub­lic may not nec­es­sar­ily win the ma­jor­ity to our way of think­ing.

Whip: to lash, to flog, to thrash, to beat. That is a dic­tionary def­i­ni­tion of the word. And that is the pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of the whip when it is in the hand of a jockey mounted on a horse. Re­fer­ring to it as a ‘tick­ling stick’ will win no favour with a prej­u­diced jury. If a jockey was caught us­ing his whip on his chil­dren, he would face a cus­to­dial sen­tence as no judge would ac­cept a de­fence of ‘it’s no more than a tick­ling stick’.

To stave off this at­tack upon our sport, to gain us some ground in the pub­lic de­bate that is sure to fol­low, the BHB and rac­ing’s stake­hold­ers have to be seen to be proac­tive and be­gin a process that even­tu­ally will lead to re­strict­ing use of the whip to ‘cor­rec­tive mea­sures’. If the present guide­lines are to be pur­sued, in the in­terim jock­eys break­ing those guide­lines must re­sult in the horse be­ing dis­qual­i­fied. At the same time, and if I had my way start­ing on the all-weather come 2019, there should be a se­ries of hands and heels races for pro­fes­sional jock­eys. This ex­per­i­ment may prove vi­tal to the sur­vival of our sport. We will never win the ar­gu­ment, as hunt­ing peo­ple lost the ar­gu­ment. Does any­one think if a jockey is taken to court for mark­ing a horse dur­ing a race a jury will see hit­ting a horse to be any dif­fer­ent to hit­ting a dog, cat or koala bear?

Not one of us, I hope, would think to hurt an an­i­mal, yet the ig­no­rant ma­jor­ity as­so­ciate peo­ple who use a whip on a horse as heart­less and un­car­ing, whose only mo­ti­va­tion is to use horses for their ma­te­rial gain.

Some­where down the line a hard truth awaits us. We must pre­pare for the day when Par­lia­men­tary leg­is­la­tion bans use of the whip in horse rac­ing. The Labour Party will one day rise to power. We must vol­un­tar­ily be­gin the process our­selves. On Jan­uary 1st 2019.

Putting the is­sue on the back-burner for later dis­cus­sion is unac­cept­able. Un­like me, An­i­mal Aid will not for­get. They have an agenda.

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