This week has witnessed the AGM of the National Association of Racing Staff’s (Nars) in Lambourne.
Normally, that wouldn’t be the kind of engagement to really get the juices flowing beyond those directly involved, but a speech from Nick Rust, the BHA’s chief executive, has set tongues wagging.
Rust delivered his pre-prepared speech and then farmed questions from the audience, one of whom raised the typically hot topic of whip use in racing.
He directly referenced Hayley Turner’s win at Royal Ascot in his reply. The jockey triumphed aboard Thanks Be at the festival earlier in the summer, but was subsequently fined £1,600 and banned from racing for nine days after being found guilty of overuse of the whip.
Sensationally, she claimed the punishment dished out was not severe enough to deter her from doing the same in the future, despite the fact that many in the sport – including Thanks Be’s trainer Charlie Fellowes – claimed his horse should have been disqualified as a result of the infringement.
“I’m not having a go at Hayley, but the situation where that’s the case and riders in big races are effectively riding at all costs is where the issue is very public because those are the big races,” Rust commented. “We have to do something about that and I’m pretty certain as a minimum we will be taking much stronger action there.”
Encouragement, Not Safety, The Issue
The question of using the whip for ‘encouragement’ purposes also reared its head after it was announced that the US Jockey Club had recommended to the 38 states of the country where racing is prominent that the whip should be banned for encouragement.
Reflecting on the UK and Irish landscape, Rust has claimed that he couldn’t see the whip being removed completely due to its necessity in protecting the safety of horse and jockey.
He did note, however, that ‘probably we’d discourage it at home’ with reference to horses in training being whipped, although the BHA’s head honcho did recognise that the whip tends to be used exclusively for safety on the training track.
“We would have to monitor that and couldn’t have a situation where we’d say it’s not acceptable on the track, but it is at home,” he confirmed.
One intriguing admission that Rust did let slip is that the BHA wouldn’t be standing still with regards to whip use. The governing body has already confirmed that they are reviewing the whip and how it is used, and the insinuation in his words is that change is afoot – particularly as he said ‘we need to make sure we make the right decision for the sport.’
“We’re still trying to progress and modernise and get to where the sport deserves to be,” he told the audience.
“It needs to be relevant to young people coming in. Not just to work in the sport, but to follow it.
“According to a survey recently, 98 per cent of people under the age of 30 have never seen a horse in the flesh in Britain – that’s the background we’re up against trying to run this sport.”