Whip sanctions spike unexplained
The Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) is keeping a close eye on whip use after a spate of whip-related charges.
In the week ending November 4, 12 whip charges were issued by the RIU between the harness and thoroughbred racing codes.
Included in the 12 charges, six drivers were sanctioned at one harness racing meeting.
RIU general manager Mike Godber said the spike of charges was an ‘‘exceptionally high week’’ but illustrated the rules were being strictly enforced.
‘‘It’s something we monitor very closely. Every race is examined,’’ he said.
There were no whip-related charges in either the harness or thoroughbred code the previous week (ending October 28). Prior to that (ending October 21) there was one whip charge in harness and none in the thoroughbred code.
Racing’s welfare standards have been thrown into the spotlight following the death of a Melbourne Cup runner on Tuesday.
Following the death, that was unrelated to whip use, Australian welfare group The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses has called for the whip to be banned.
Godber said a high week – such as 12 charges – was unlikely to be the start of a trend.
‘‘There’s no rhyme or reason for it, sometimes you will get a week where there are a number of charges.’’
Godber said to keep whip sanctions in context, the RIU compare monthly averages rather than isolate one high or low week.
It keeps detailed records of all whip charges for reviews and comparisons.
Roughly averaged out over the last month, the sanctions worked out at one a week in thoroughbreds or one every five race meetings and just over four a week in harness or one charge per meeting.
Five drivers were fined and one was suspended at the Timaru Harness Racing Club’s meeting on November 3.
Junior driver Darren Keast was suspended for using the whip more than permitted and John Versteeg, Philippa Wakelin, Gary Shand, Sam Payne and Nathan Purdon were all fined either $200 or $300 on the same charge.
Penalties vary on a case by case basis but the Judicial Control Authority – which hands down the sanctions – has penalty guidelines in place.
Natalie Rasmussen was hit with two charges of using the whip more than permitted in one week. She was fined $1000 at the New Zealand Metropolitan meeting on November 2 and $300 for an earlier charge at the Kaikoura meeting on October 29.
If jockeys and drivers are repeat offenders they are hit with harsher penalties.
At the Auckland Trotting Club on November 2, Jay Abernethy and Stephen Argue were both fined $200 for using their whips in contravention of whip regulations.
In the thoroughbred code, jockey Terry Moseley was handed a suspension of five riding days for using his whip prior to the 100-metre mark and Jason Laking was fined $500 for excessive use of the whip at the Banks Peninsula Racing Club’s meeting on November 4.
There were 12 whip charges issued for the week ending November 4.