I’m sorry to try my reader(s) patience, but I can’t let yesterday’s Grand Sefton Handicap Chase pass without a further, brief minimalist fugue on that most tedious subject of the moment.
For those of you who missed this epic duel from the last, Aidan Coleman on Stewarts House (11-2) just held Paul Carberry on Linnel (7-2) at bay by a neck. Unfortunately Coleman broke the new whip rule in the process, administering 11 strokes (three more than the eight allowed) for which offence he was banned from riding for seven days and had his portion of the prize money confiscated. The ban will probably mean he loses about 30 rides and associated fees, in addition to his 5.85% share of the prize money (just over £1800).
Let’s take a closer look at what Coleman actually did. Before the last fence he kept the horse up to his work with hands and heels, plus a handful of the new “rein-taps” from the stick with his left hand still on the reins. Only after jumping the fence, when Stewarts House started to lean onto Linnel, did he administer four left-handed strokes to stop his horse hanging into his rival and causing interference. Once his horse reached the elbow and was clear, the jockey pulled the whip through to his right hand, giving the horse another seven smacks in rhythm to keep it going straight without wandering off the rails and into his rival’s path. From the elbow to the line Linnel too received seven smacks, after which both jockeys put their whips down some yards before the finish.
I do not know what Coleman said to the Stewards, but I am surprised that they did not take the safety aspect of those first four strokes into account. Nor have any of the self-appointed couch judges who’ve taken it upon themselves to criticise his ride mentioned the fact that what Coleman was doing was making sure that his horse did not impede his rival. He was, in essence, playing fair to Carberry and Linnel in a sportsmanlike way.
Yet if he’d allowed Stewart House to hang into Linnel, would he have lost his prize money or been banned from riding for seven days? At most he’d have received a rap on the knuckles and a couple of days “holiday”, without any further penalty – and without being in receipt of yet another sanctimonious chorus of “he knew the rules” from the usual suspects. Was this equitable? Was it just? Did the “punishment fit the crime”? Did it make any sense whatsoever?
Peter Scudamore, who was very much in favour of the new rules (“Tough but not tough enough”) foresaw exactly what would happen in practise, especially in such prestigious and valuable races as the Grand Sefton. Here’s what he said on September 27th in The Daily Mail:
“The new regulations could see repeat offenders among the jockey ranks banned for 20, 30 or more days. They could also have to face the Disciplinary Committee with their licences to ride at stake.
But ultimately, they answer to their employers – the owners and trainers – and I have still to be convinced, when the chips are down, that that responsibility and the hope of future employment won’t outweigh the new rules.
That means more breaches. I hope I’m wrong but that scenario would mean the positive effect of these new stiffer changes will be undermined and keep the use of the whip under scrutiny.”
He’s right of course. The new rule is unworkable, because it is based on random stroke counts which will always be exceeded when push comes to shove, where jockeys are faced with a choice between a BHA ban and doing their best to win the race for their current and (hopefully) future employers.
Yesterday’s disgraceful and utterly depressing downer does Racing no credit at all, and will do its public reputation nothing but harm. It provides fodder for its fundamentalist Animal Welfare opponents and bitter cud for its true supporters.
Jamie Stier, chief architect of the whip rules fiasco, was reported (by the admirable Chris Cook of The Guardian) as having had the cheek to greet Coleman with a heartfelt “What are you doing to me?” as he returned to the weighing room.
Mr Stier, I’ll tell you what he’s doing. He’s a professional jockey who yesterday did a great job in winning a race whilst using his whip to chart a true, fair and sportsmanlike course. For that, you have sequestered £1800 from him, and taken away his right to ride for seven key days of the season. The question isn’t what he’s doing to you, but what you are doing to him.
Liam Power (@Lpower77) said:
This wudnt happen in any other professional sport,joke
I only wish it were a joke, Liam. As it is, the jockeys are dealing with an impossible situation – and an unworkable rule – with a dignity and professionalism which is making the BHA and those remaining rats who’ve yet to leave the sinking Whip Rule Ship look more than a little foolish.
We must keep doing all we can to support these brave men and women against this disastrous RSPCA-inspired “change of culture”.
Liam Power (@Lpower77) said:
What other pro sport wud this happen,joke
Its disgusting! and it wouldn’t happen in any other sport! OK, so the government moan about no jobs etc (meaning ppl who dont want to work) were as you lot are working, then the BHA f#ck yous over which eventually is going to cost professional Jockeys their jobs because ultimately they are taking your hard earned money/wages away from you by making horrendous rules like this!
It is horrendous, rob. BHA and the puritan fringe seem to think this will blow over. It won’t. Until they remove the stroke counts in favour of higher “guidance levels” again every big race will have this stupid (and totally avoidable) issue hanging over it, especially once the “2nd and 3rd offences” start to mount up amongst the star jockeys. Meanwhile good professionals such as Aidan Coleman are seeing their livelihood seeping away from them, day in day out.
I can see this whip rule creating a breakaway of some sort. Imagine a group of courses setting up there on serise of meetings under the rules of a new administration. The BHA is probably the most inept ruling body out there.
That’s a horrific spectre you raise, richard. Certainly I can well see it leading to a “new administration”. The Jockey Club still owns quite a few courses, and has in a sense only “lent” power to the BHA which it helped to form. If BHA is intent on such poor, reactive government and doubtful PR/marketing initiatives rather than concentrating their fire on the really important issues facing the Sport, then it could well be digging its own grave.
Jonathan da Silva said:
This is rather tendentious in that it assumes Coleman’s account should be accepted at face value with no analysis. Personally better arguments against the rules were the ride of Fine Parchment in that race whose jockey as the horse had already lost 10 to 15 lengths and was clearly beaten ensured he came back having used much of his quota – no doubt to impress trainer and connections. Sickening and within the rules whereas Coleman’s use was more forgiveable, understandable and maybe even correct.
Watching racing in Ireland today where even Geraghty resorts to the whip before any attempt at riding I’d want better arguments to definitively say the BHA are wrong. I am open minded and especially where the flat is concerned think the rules are arbitrary to an extent – because of the obvious flaw. However unless someone can frame the rules differently so it covers more nuance and does not become the victim of a long line of possibly specious post race jockey rationalisations I will give BHA slack on the rules but not the timing handling.
Football had this crying when it banned the back pass, tackle from behind and sending’s off for ‘professional’ fouls – see whining when Moran’s cheating on bringing down Reid led to him walking in the FA Cup final. The NFL also has clamped on foul play and tries to protect QBs over and above fans views. It has been called the No Fun League. Rugby started sending people to the bin for fighting, spear tackles over the dead bodies of old timers etc. Name a sport and you can always find rules no one wanted.
That about no other sport can safely be called mere rhetoric.
TBF to him this is not reporting Aidan Coleman’s account, Jonathan, but my own factual account of what I saw, which you can verify for yourself online. As far as I know the man himself has retained a dignified silence.
Having said which, I agree 100% with your perception of the “collateral” these whip rules are potentially causing. It’s also been suggested that they’re resulting in horses being hit maybe less often, but harder.
The difference between what happens in Ireland and what is happening here is a fascinating area for discussion: suffice it to say for now that there isn’t anything like the degree of controversy or anger about the rules there, and whether they are right or wrong to look for a reduction in whip use, the way that BHA have implemented these rules has set back international harmonisation – which is ultimately the only way to go – by years.
“More nuance” is one need, “timing” was certainly another; but the fundamental issue of framing the rules around an (essentially) inflexible and arbitrary count means that they will, in my opinion, remain unworkable until that fundamental mistake is admitted and addressed.
It would be interesting to know what would happen if Coleman didn’t correct his horse leaning and hence pushing Carberry and horse off the course and maybe running off the course himself.Would the penalty be less than Aiden Coleman was actually punished for, which as previously mentioned was corrective and sportmanly conducy.
You make a very sharp point, Teemu. One of the worst aspects of the current situation is that the penalties for careless riding – and even genuine whip misuse – can be so much less draconian than bans for “over the odds” frequency of strokes. A jockey found guilty of careless riding certainly doesn’t lose his prize money. We must question what the logic of all this is supposed to be.
What do they wang jockeys to do?? Not try n win the race so that they have no chamce of getting a ban? Horseracing is becomeing a joke because of none inportant people who hav a bet once a year!!
To be fair to the General Public, Chris, the BBC only received eight – yes that’s right EIGHT – mails after the Grand National about the winning rider’s use of the whip. The BHA’s mistake has been to accept this spurious line of “public perception”, peddled by the Animal Charities, and to react by providing a clumsy “solution in search of a problem”. If BHA wanted to bring the whip to jokey public prominence and irritate the heck out of racing’s insiders, they’ve could hardly have succeeded better!
Bob Smith said:
I don’t know why they couldn’t use the new rules as a guide line, for referral to a whip misuse reviewing panel. Who could meet every week and they would then hear the plea of the jockey and maybe trainer and owners statements. So in the case where a jockey strikes a horse to correct it, or keep it safe, when wondering coming to a fence before the last, common sense would prevail. Fewer jockeys would lose their win percentage and lost riding fees, due to be suspended. To ensure the image of the sport isn’t self-damaged
Guidelines are certainly the right path, Bob – if only BHA took this sensible line, the harm would be hugely reduced. Great comment!
Dr Steve Jones (@Dr_Steve_Jones) said:
I’m afraid I don’t agree with your analysis, Pinza. As Jonathan notes, all sports have their complainants when the rules change, and racing is no different.
Did Aidan Coleman’s whip use enhance your enjoyment of the race? For me, these were two brave horses fighting out a close finish at the end of a long and gruelling race. It’s saddening to see Stewart’s House hit 11 times when he’s clearly giving his all.
Steve, thanks for your comment. Aidan Coleman’s use of the whip did not enhance my enjoyment of the race. I enjoyed his horsemanship, but my pleasure in the close finish of a gruelling race was soured and destroyed by the ridiculous penalty handed out to him for what is (as I hope you’ll agree) a very minor breach of a senseless rule, based on a debatable imperative to “improve public perception” rather than any true welfare issue.
By the way, four of the eleven strokes were to stop him leaning on and potentially injuring another horse. That makes four for safety, and only seven light strokes given in rhythm and used to keep his horse going to the finish. Do you believe Coleman’s use of the RSPCA-approved light whip was cruel? If so, why? And what is your evidence?