PHUMELELA will be staging a race at Turffontein on Saturday in which jockeys will not be permitted to use whips.
The move to ban the use of whips in the sport is growing momentum in the UK and it has found a lot of support in South Africa.
Horseracing is seen by many outsiders as a sport that encourages cruelty to animals.
Modern whips are made from cushion and they do not hurt the horse if used correctly but it does make lot of noise as it makes contact.
However, outsiders watching a race just see that horses get a solid beating from a jockey and that immediately gives the sport a bad image.
The question one needs to ask is to what extent the whip encourages a horse to run faster? Interestingly, anybody who watched Race 7 at Turffontein on Saturday 20 October would seriously have reservations about whether it does.
Warrior’s Rest and D’Arivee were fighting out that finish and as champion jockey Lyle Hewitson pulled his whip some 150m from the finishing post, it flew out of his hand, over his head and dropped on the turf.
Demonstrating why he is the country’s champion, Hewitson showed no panic but jut rode his mount with his hands. It looked as if D’Arivee would pass him but Hewitson got Warrior’s Rest perfectly balanced and came back to win the race by a long head.
In the UK, an organisation called Championship Horse Racing has been set up which is looking to repackage horseracing using Formula 1 racing as a model.
They point out horseracing is the second largest spectator sport in Great Britain and, with a history dating back centuries, one of the longest established.
It generates over £3.7 billion (R69.33 billion) for the British economy and major horseracing events such as Royal Ascot and Cheltenham Festival are important dates in the British and International sporting calendar.
However, sponsorship participation is not at the same level as in other sports.
Their aim is to distance the sport from the public perception that it’s a complicated, elitist recreation inextricably linked to gambling and provide a simple, accessible format that’s gripping, thrilling and unmissable.
They want to present horseracing to an entirely new global audience and re-affirm its status as the high profile, much-loved sport it has always been. The use of the whip is one perception that needs to be dealt with.
Saturday sees the running of the R1-million Peermont Emperors Charity Mile and Clyde Basel, on-course sales and marketing executive for Phumelela, views the meeting as an ideal opportunity to introduce whip-free racing to the public.
“Being Charity Mile we want to show that we are willing to take a positive step forward for those who support a welfare approach to the role of animals in our lives,” he said.
“As a responsible operator/regulator there is a view that the current rules and penalties around the use of the whip are simply not good enough and can be both improved and made clearer.
“Obviously much research still needs to be done but this is a perfect trial for Charity Mile day with the newbies (celebrities and the like) all watching, and in particular all the horse-related charities who will welcome this concept with open arms.”
Jockey Piere Strydom has been a keen exponent of the innovative move. “While the whips do not inflict pain on the horse, it still does a lot of damage to the image of the sport.
“I feel this is a very positive move and I congratulate the operator for coming up with the concept,” said Strydom.
Trainer Mike de Kock is another staunch supporter. “The first question we get from newcomers to the sport is ‘why do we whip horses’. It gives the sport a very poor image and I’ve been pushing his idea for months.
“There are no negatives. It can only be positive for horseracing.”