Harness racing facing whip crackdown

(Photosport file)
(Photosport file)

Could the days of harness racing drivers using whips on their horses be numbered?

Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) chief executive Edward Rennell has gone public with his stance that "whips should go" even though the majority in the industry support the status quo.

When it comes to using the whip on horses, Canterbury trainer and former world champion Mark Jones believes his views are shared by the majority of those in the industry.

"I think it's a big part of racing and it's needed and it would be a terrible spectacle if you take it away from racing," Jones said.

But on the Trackside channel last night, Harness Racing boss Edward Rennell made his views very clear saying he thinks whips should go.

He emphasised his opinion is a personal one and not that of HRNZ. 

"At some point in the future it will be unacceptable to hit a horse with a whip and rather than have that change forced on us by animal welfare groups and the like, I think we should be proactive," Rennell said.

"It will be an interesting scenario in the next four, five, 10 years. Edward has hit the nail on the head, it will happen and follow other countries and outlaw it," form analyst Greg O'Connor said.

Rules vary in diferent countries. Australia's take on it is that the momentthe wrist and elbow action goes out of the line of sight, it's illegal.

In this country you cannot use the whip excessively.

"The maximum number of hits is 20 in the last 200 metres, well, that's the guideline anyway so the drivers are using the whip less and less I believe," O'Connor said.

The most high profile transgressor in recent times was Australian Kerryn Manning for her winning drive in the New Zealand Cup. She was given what many thought to be a token $1000 fine and suspended for two weeks.

"It's both used as an encourager to make the horses go faster but it's also there so the horse people can drive the horse in a safe manner as well," O'Connor added.

If the horse drops the bit it runs off the track then a tap on the backside gets it back on the job - so it's a safety thing as much as anything," Jones said.

While a rule change is far from imminent, Edward Rennell's comments will prompt more conversation on what is already a hot and contentious topic.


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