Things We Learned » Mis-use of whip rules

Mis-use of whip rules

There are so many things wrong with the new whip rules that have been introduced this week in the UK, that it is difficult to know where to begin and where to end. For starters, the ultimate reason for the change has not been fully explained.

It goes without saying that nobody likes to see horses being abused, least of all those involved with them, but this is a rule that has almost certainly been introduced because of aesthetics, because frequent use of the whip looks bad (especially, bizarrely according to the BHA Review Group’s own research, to those with no interest in racing), not because of any material harm or hurt that the new air-cushioned whips are causing the horse.

So what is the objective of this change? To attract those who are currently not interested in racing through the turnstiles? Seriously?

Then there is the timing issue, the shotgun-to-the-foot decision that was to introduce the new rules at the beginning of the week that leads up to the richest day’s racing ever staged in the UK, one of the most important day’s racing ever held there. So when all the column inches should be about Frankel and So You Think and Fame And Glory and Deacon Blues, the majority are about 15 days for Kieren Fox.

Then there is the maximum-of-eight for a three-and-a-quarter mile chase run on heavy ground, and the maximum-of-seven for a five-furlong flat race run on fast ground. Extraordinary. How many finishers do you think there will be in the Welsh National this year if the rules are not changed before Christmas? There is the complete removal of common sense that saw Richard Hughes banned for five days at Salisbury on Monday for using his whip to correct his mount, who was hanging (if he hadn’t, he probably would have been done for careless riding), after he had reached his quota of strokes, and for another 10 after hitting his horse six times, which is bizarre, given that you are allowed to hit a horse seven times. The fact that all six strikes occurred inside the final furlong, thereby going over the arbitrary limit of five inside the final furlong, was the difference between no days and 10 days for Hughes. Ridiculously, if his first strike had been about 25 yards later, he would have remained within the new rules.

How is it that eight strikes looks bad but seven strikes looks fine? And that six inside the final furlong does not look fine?

And sitting uncomfortably on top of all this is the fact that the winning horse is still allowed to keep the race even if his rider has transgressed the rules. You have these draconian penalties for riders who flout the rules (suspension as well as the loss of riding fees), yet no reward for the ones who abide by them. So you had the peculiar situation at Salisbury on Monday, of Harry Bentley obeying the rules on Oetzi and finishing second to Kieren Fox on Orthodox Lad, who had broken the rules, with Bentley maintaining that, if he had broken the rules as well, his horse would have won.

The sub-committee of the Turf Club, which was set up to monitor developments in the UK in order to consider if the whip rules in Ireland need to be changed, will not be putting in for overtime, that’s for sure.

Flying fillies

Historically it has generally been the colts, the embryo stallions, who have dominated the Ballydoyle landscape but, while Aidan O’Brien has trained some top class fillies through the years, he probably has never had as exciting a collection of juvenile fillies as he has now, as emphasised by Wading’s win in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.

Not only did the Montjeu filly win the race in really impressive fashion, beating the well-backed and well-touted Godolphin filly Pimpernel by two lengths – and value for that – but she did it in a faster time than Parish Hall clocked in winning the Dewhurst Stakes over the same course and distance earlier in the day.

Put Wading alongside Maybe, winner of the Moyglare Stud Stakes and Debutante Stakes, unbeaten in five; Kissed, an impressive winner of a one-mile maiden on soft ground at Navan on her racecourse debut 10 days ago; and Was, a 1.2 million-guinea yearling, also the winner of her maiden over a mile at The Curragh on her only start to date, and the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks can hardly come quickly enough.

The trick, apparently, lies in the one-word names.

Dewhurst Jim

You simply have to at least give a second glance to everything that Jim Bolger runs in the Dewhurst Stakes, regardless of odds. After Parish Hall’s victory in the race last Saturday, under a top class ride from Kevin Manning, Bolger’s Dewhurst record since 2006 now reads 1118031. If you had bet €1 on each of his six runners during that time, you would be showing a net profit of €39.87. And don’t rule out the possibility that Parish Hall will go on and emulate New Approach by winning the Derby next year.

Think twice

So You Think could land the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot this afternoon, and provide Aidan O’Brien with his first win in the race, but he represents no value whatsoever from a betting perspective. To put his odds into perspective, the son of High Chaparral beat Snow Fairy by a half a length in the Irish Champion Stakes, she beat him by a half a length in the Arc, yet she is four times his price. That doesn’t make sense.

Minsk beat

If one more person mentions Minsk as a possible dark horse for the Triumph Hurdle, I’m not going to back him.

© The Irish Field, 15th October 2011