Racing pundit and personality John McCririck has said that the British Horseracing Authority should have banned whipping outright but that the controversial new ruling is “a step in the right direction.”
In a column for the Daily Mail the Channel 4 and At The Races expert has accused the BHA of not doing enough to protect horses, the article begins: “Deliberate cruelty to animals is rightly seen in our age as an affront to civilisation.”
He goes on to compare the banning of “bear-baiting, cock-fighting and fox-hunting…[and] the use of performing animals in circuses.”
“Yet, in one crucial respect, the world of horse-racing has set itself against this trend.”
“For despite the drive across our society towards more humane treatment of animals, the sport still tolerates the use of whips by jockeys as a means of making their mounts go faster.”
McCririck says that he welcomes the restrictions of whip usage which have resulted in a number of top jockeys reacting angrily to the changes.
The new regulations state that a jockey can use the whip seven times in a flat race, with a maximum of five hits in the final furlong while jump race jockeys can use the whip up to eight times.
The changes have received widespread criticism from jockeys and punters alike, especially at the severity of the penalties issued for breaches of the new rules.
McCririck though feels that far from weakening the quality of racing an all out ban of whipping would enhance the skill of the sport.
The abolition of the whip would actually heighten the primacy of the real skills of ‘hands and heels’ horsemanship”, he says.
Other opponents of the ban say that the excitement of the final furlong will be lost if riders aren’t allowed to use the whip to urge their horses towards the finish line.
McCririck says this line of reasoning is “wrong-headed.”
“In fact, whipping causes just as many losses as wins, for it encourages horses to swerve off-kilter as they try to escape more punishment.”
“[Excessive use of the whip] is no way to conduct a sport. And despite all the furore from the jockeys, the tighter rules on the whip have undoubtedly improved racing. Recent contests have been much cleaner, more enjoyable to watch.”
McCririck was also keen to note that he is not alone in wanting the abolition of the whip saying commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan, trainer Charlie Brooks and jockey John Francome also want to see the practice banned.