SINCE I penned my last story on Justracing on 4/8/16 and sold all the racing domain names and websites that I owned to undergo a medical procedure before semi-retiring, I’ve been offered several jobs writing racing stories. Some even came with a “name your own price”, which was flattering, but as the racing industry is its own worst enemy and is pretty much beyond help from an animal welfare perspective, I just wasn’t interested in starting writing again. More than three years on, I have made an exception and have penned the following story and whilst I wouldn’t know letsgohorseracing website owner John Lingard if I passed him in the street today, he’s kindly agreed to put the following article up on his website.

What I have written won’t be popular in some racing circles, but I make no apology for that and really couldn’t care less how racing hierarchy feels, as life is not a popularity contest and each person needs to be true to themselves in their daily life.

I advocated getting rid of the whip in racing for many years on Justracing and in late 2019, with the topic firmly back in the spotlight, I thought there would never be a better time to get mobile and do my bit to get the whip banned. In making the aforesaid statement, I fully understand that the harness racing industry has done a terrific job to scale the whip use down in their industry to its current level, but unfortunately the harness industry is “guilty by association” with the thoroughbred industry, so as the public perception is that a whip is a whip, it needs to be banished permanently from both the harness and thoroughbred industries.

What Quadrella of events occurred to necessitate my needing to bring the racing industry to account in a very public way – via not only penning this article, but also a campaign involving multiple anti-whip billboards on major highways?

In order, the four Quadrella legs were won by – The 7.30 Report, RadioTAB anchors, Mark Zahra and Glen Boss.

Some within the thoroughbred racing industry ranks slammed the recent ABC 7.30 Report footage that was taken at a knackery at Caboolture for the way it was presented. My thoughts are that millions of Australians from across all sectors were absolutely disgusted by the footage that was aired. I don’t give a damn whether “they” acquired the footage over two days, two months, two years or two decades, what was captured on film was what I’d call “an absolute and utter disgrace that would shock the average Australian”. In part, the footage portrayed the racing industry, which I’ve been involved in for over half a century, in a very poor light - yet again – and that exact same scenario has been a constant now for many years.

The Australian racing industry across its three codes sadly has a long and sordid history of atrocities being committed and it needs to get its house in order - and keep it in order. Most members of the general public would have reasonably been entitled to think that the racing industry would have been jolted into immediate and long-term harsh remedial action after the greyhound live baiting scandal broke in mid-2015, but naturally the extraordinary amount of negative publicity at the time has really amounted to nothing, as in the four years since, the racing industry has been rocked by a plethora of more bad news stories. The person whom many in racing circles declared “the best trainer in Australia” and a “master trainer” - Darren Weir – was outed for four years over possession and use of jiggers and recent newspaper reports have since advised that police investigations are ongoing and that Weir may, in due course, face “animal cruelty” charges. One wouldn’t have to be allocated an over-abundance of grey matter at birth, to draw the conclusion that it would be a million-to-one and drifting that Weir was the only licensed thoroughbred trainer in Australia to be in possession of and/or using jiggers on racehorses.

The second leg of the Quadrella that raised my ire was when two RadioTAB anchors who are regularly on the airwaves Monday to Friday inclusive, when I’m out exercising between 5.30am and 6.45am, openly mocked “protestors” who were at the Melbourne Cup the day before. I accept the protestors are a minority group, but we live in Australia, which is thankfully a democracy and it therefore follows that these people are perfectly entitled to exercise their democratic right to protest lawfully – in an attempt to get their message across. Love them or loathe them, the facts and realities are that the protestors against aspects of racing conduct themselves in a peaceful manner and don’t commit any anti-social acts in order to gain media attention. It is my considered opinion that it would take more guts to stand in front of a pro-racing crowd with banners decrying the industry than to mock them publicly on a racing radio station.

People need to understand that the history of our world is littered with stories of minority groups that rose from total obscurity to change the course of certain aspects of our daily life. From one solitary person standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square, to a few “do-gooders” as they were called at the time, starting the anti-smoking lobby, they have all come back to haunt those who initially mocked them.

The third leg of the Quadrella is Mark Zahra and the fourth leg is Glen Boss. Both are Group 1 winning jockeys and in the case of Boss, he’s even won three Melbourne Cups, the point being that neither is a poor battling 50-kilo bundle of joy from the bush who apart from plying his trade as a jockey has to work as a labourer at a factory through the day - just to get by financially.

For his part, Zahra rode Southern France to win the Zipping Classic at Sandown on 16/11/19. The only thing Zahra conveniently forgot to do, as he’s required to do under the Australian Rules of Racing was to count to five, as that’s the maximum allowable number of times he can hit his mount with the whip, prior to the 100-metre mark. Via either watching a thoroughbred race live on television and/or reading thoroughbred stewards’ reports after a race meeting both bear testament to the fact that the whip rule is flouted by jockeys on a daily basis around this country. In the video footage of the race in question, the Zipping Classic, Mark Zahra first hits Southern France with his whip at the 575-metre mark. One could raise the question. did he really intend in the next 475 metres (575-metre mark to the 100-metre mark) to only hit his mount another four times? It’s history that Zahra won the race on Southern France. To their credit, the Racing Victoria stewards were straight on to Zahra’s overuse of the whip in that race and they hauled him in, over what would be about the millionth whip infringement of the whip rules by a jockey in this country since the new rules were introduced. Here’s what the Racing Victoria stewards report on the day stated:

Mark Zahra, rider of Southern France, pleaded guilty to breaching the provisions of AR132(7)(a)(ii) in that he used his whip on eleven occasions prior to the 100 metres. M Zahra had his licence to ride in races suspended for a total of six meetings to commence midnight 23 November, 2019 and to expire midnight 28 November, 2019. Further, Mark Zahra was fined $3,000. In assessing penalty Stewards took into account that he was first placegetter in a Group 2 race, his record in this area and the totality of his whip use.

So as per the aforesaid text, Zahra got fined $3,000. That is what I would call “totally ridiculous”, as his five per cent share of first prizemoney, exclusive of any “slings” that he may get from the numerous happy owners of the horse, is $9,000 (the jockey gets five per cent of first prize which in the case of the Zipping Classic was $180,000). If I were a jockey and I was going to still get to retain $6,000 of my $9,000 earnings for blatantly breaking the whip rule, I cannot see how there is any deterrent whatsoever in the aforesaid stewards ruling. If I was running the show, which sadly I’m not, or I’d sort some of this rot out in about five minutes, I would fine the jockey his entire $9,000 minus what the current losing riding fee is as well as give him a lengthy suspension, during which he could seek tutoring on counting to five, which is probably something that he mastered when he was about a five-year-old.

Australia-wide did the jockeys learn anything from Zahra’s $3,000 fine and a bit of a suspension? Don’t be stupid, of course not, because just seven days later at the Kembla Grange “metropolitan” Sydney meeting the following Saturday, in a new $1 million prizemoney race called “The Gong”, Glen Boss did the same as Zahra and forgot to count to five before the 100-metre mark. Again, to their credit, this time Racing New South Wales stewards nailed Boss for hitting his mount Star of the Seas 15 times before the 100-metre mark and amazingly according to the stewards report on the matter, Boss, who has been a licensed jockey for 30-odd years, obviously also encountered a problem understanding what “consecutive strides” actually are. The full stewards’ transcript on the whip issue of Boss reads:

RACE 6: The Gong 1600m: Star Of The Seas – Prior to the declaration of correct weight, the Stewards identified from the inquiry room that G. Boss had struck his mount on 15 occasions, including on 13 consecutive strides, prior to the 100m. When Stewards could not be satisfied that Star Of The Seas had gained an advantage resulting in it finishing in 3rd placing in the race in accordance with AR221(2), they declined to exercise their powers under AR132(10) and did not proceed to a formal protest. At a subsequent inquiry G. Boss pleaded guilty to charges under AR132(7)(a)(ii), in that he used his whip on 15 occasions, 10 more than what is permitted under the rule, and AR132(7)(a)(i) in that he used his whip on 13 consecutive strides. G. Boss's licence to ride in races was suspended for a period to commence on Sunday 24 November 2019 and to expire on Sunday 8 December 2019, on which day he may ride. In addition, G. Boss was fined the sum of $4,000.   

Given the what I call “patronising piffle” that alleged “racing journalists” write, on virtually a daily basis, it’s amazing to me how major whip infringements like Zahra and Boss aren’t unceremoniously bagged in the writings of these “racing journalists”, but I guess in life, and moreover in racing, it’s just easier to look the other way and pretend that no problem exists.

Only a few people in Australian racing are prepared to rock any boat on the whip issue. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, the sole Chief Steward at a thoroughbred race meeting in Australia, with what I’d call enough “testicular development” to uphold a protest over whip use, was Racing Queensland steward Paul Gillard. Interestingly, Gillard, a former jockey himself, and his panel, which consisted of another former jockey and trainer, Neil Boyle, along with Daniel Aurisch and Trudi Frazer upheld a protest at Caloundra over whip use in March 2016. A precedent was set that day by a panel of stewards who were doing exactly what every steward in Australian racing is employed to do, which is enforce the Australian Rules of Racing. It’s not rocket science – there are a set of clearly set out rules and they are enforceable. As an analogy, if I fail to obey clearly set out road rules and choose to drive down the road at 130kmph in a 100 zone, is it the police officer’s fault for pulling me up and booking me?

To show exactly how stupid the whip rules in this country are, if you simply look at the two examples that I’ve set out above, Zahra loses $3,000 of his $9,000 – so in terms of his percentage of his winning riding fee, he loses 33.33% ($3,000 fine) meaning he gets to keep 66.66% ($6,000). In the Boss case, he, via his fine, loses $4,000 of his $5,000 riding fee for running third. So Boss loses 90% and gets to keep just 10%. Both jockeys blatantly breach the whip rules by hitting their respective mount a very similar number of times, yet the percentage they get to keep is vastly different between two different States. Rather than just pen this story and bag the current “stupid” whip enforcement system, how would I fix it? My immediate “fix” would be that the jockey who is so blatantly in breach of the rules loses his entire five per cent prizemoney earnings irrespective of where he finishes (remember up to 10th in the Melbourne Cup earn $100,000 prizemoney so the jockey whose mount runs 10th in that race gets $5,000) and the only money he or she is entitled to keep is the current losing riding fee - as at the date of his or her indiscretion – which is currently about $180. He or she also gets suspended immediately for one month for the first offence, two months for a second offence and three months for the third and each subsequent offence. By invoking my idea, we’d soon see how quickly some of these jockeys take to learn to properly acquire the hardly amazing skill of being able to count to five.

In fact - I’ve got a much better idea. Let’s get rid of the whip altogether in racing forthwith, as for starters, punters are absolutely sick and tired of jockeys that cannot operate within the current rules. If the jockeys have no whip, they can go back to being horsemen and horsewomen and ride horses out to the finish line hands and heels. In thoroughbred racing the powers that be along with the trainers, jockeys and owners all publicly say “ah the new padded whip doesn’t hurt, it just makes a noise”. What a crock of fertiliser that one is, but the thoroughbred racing industry has successfully pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes with that lie, since the padded whip was introduced in 2009. I may look stupid, but rest assured I’m not, and I’ll bet you a pound to a pinch of the billy goat fertiliser derivative that if I walked up the main street of any town or city in Australia that you care to pick and randomly selected members of the public to give themselves a real good hard whack in the leg with a “padded whip” that the vast majority would say “it hurts”. The thoroughbred industry will say “oh yeah it might hurt a human, but a horse has a hide whereas a human has skin” and all this allied rot. Unfortunately, apart from the television personality named Mr Ed, some decades ago, horses can’t talk, so even if the hide/skin scenario had any small amount of truth about it, the general public will continue to think that hitting horses in 2019 with a whip is not in line with community expectations. I venture to say that 99% of thoroughbred owners have never even held a padded whip, so in reality they aren’t even qualified to say whether it hurts or not, but if they were to give themselves a real good hard whack on the leg with the seamed section, they’d soon become very educated on the subject. It’s simply a fact that with a very minor change in the angle that the jockey’s whip hits the horse at, either intentionally or unintentionally, the seamed section of a padded whip is capable of hurting. The stitching of a padded whip is such that if a horse was hit with the stitched seam there’s hardly a person born that would say it doesn’t hurt. But talk is cheap, so to that end, I went and bought a commonly available and Australian Racing Board approved padded whip and last Sunday I took that padded whip to the Marburg TAB harness meeting and I randomly selected a cross section of attendees, primarily licensees, but also included some members of the public and I showed them a “padded whip” and afforded each the opportunity to hit themselves with it on their leg. Of the 20 or more people whom I gave the chance to hit themselves with the seamed section of the padded whip (not the flat front or back), all except one agreed that a hard hit with the seamed section hurt. Thankfully, thoroughbred stewards have the authority under the Australian Rules of Racing to come down hard on a jockey where the “seam of the flap is the point of contact of the horse”, but with a horse at full gallop and a jockey wielding the whip in a very fast motion, the simple facts and realities are that there’s not a person born whose eyes would be able to detect if the jockey was using his or her whip within the rules of racing on that score. I stand to be corrected, but I can’t recall ever reading in any steward’s report where a jockey was ever charged and/or fined for hitting their mount with the seamed section of a padded whip. Interesting also is the fact that all whips that jockeys use are black in colour, which makes it even harder to detect any slight indiscretions with its use. As an analogy, you don’t send a black pacer around in a race with white gear, as it’s a no brainer that any abnormality in respect of the gait of that pacer would stand out like a beacon in Sydney Harbour at 10pm.

The racing industry will also say the whip doesn’t promote a horse further forward of where it would have finished, had the horse not been hit with the whip, so whilst common sense isn’t very common in the racing industry, provided the racing industry isn’t talking with a forked tongue on that topic, then by the simple extrapolation of that statement, banning the whip won’t make one iota of difference to the result of any thoroughbred or harness race, as based on their own wording, the whip is incapable of making a horse run faster.

I believe the harness industry can – and should - move quickly to get rid of the whip entirely from their sport and via the harness industry setting the precedent through banning the whip, the thoroughbred industry would be left like a shag on a rock, which would surely prompt that industry to also ban the whip. Why should the harness industry ban the whip? Well it seems totally Irish to me that the harness industry can race at Brisbane’s RNA show with no whip allowed to be used, with the obvious primary aim of that strategy being not to offend the non-racing adults and children that attend the RNA, yet 10 minutes down the road at the TAB meeting at Albion Park, the whip is always on the agenda. The “Irish” part of my equation comes into it on the basis that on the Sunday night at the RNA Show, the pacing final is worth $10,000 in total prizemoney. At the Albion Park TAB meeting the night before, the total prizemoney for a normal race was just $6,650, so no whips are allowed in a $10,000 race with thousands of members of the public watching, but whips are allowed in a $6,650 race at Albion Park with virtually no crowd present. If that scenario alone isn’t a reason to just get rid of the whip in harness racing, well I don’t know what is. 76-year-old Denis Smith, who has been licensed in the harness racing industry for 53 years, also writes a weekly harness story for the Ipswich daily newspaper, The Queensland Times. In part, Denis wrote in his column on 16/11/19: “We have the lows of whips and the treatment of horses at an export facility north of Brisbane. The sooner the racing supremos understand that the whip must go and that abattoirs must learn that the un-rehomable must be treated with total consideration and kindness in the process, the sooner that gallops and harness will rebuild the public support they once had. The simple truth is that we ignore public opinion at our own peril. What was acceptable in the ‘age of the horse’ will not wash today and it is racing which has to change, not the potential punters”.

Then when men like successful businessman and six-time Melbourne Cup winning owner, Lloyd Williams, call for the whip to be banned in this country, one would reasonably think that he’s worth listening to.

We all have a front row seat to change this right now. The “followers” will do what they always do and look the other way – it’s easier that way. I won’t look the other way. I’ll do something constructive to try to right this wrong and leave the world a better place for the next generation of Earthlings.

There is no question that banning the whip will happen one day – so we may as well do it now - and get it over and done with. Why the hell is it the responsibility of the next generation to do something that we’ve had decades to resolve, but just haven’t quite got around to doing yet? By banning the whip, the racing industry can move forward, instead of having to endure constantly declining attendances and betting turnover at big race meetings like the Melbourne Cup. With no whip in sight, the under-30 demographic of today, who are the future of not only the racing industry, but the entire nation, may enjoy a day out at the races without having to witness horses being hit with a whip. If the young people of today are being raised to play rugby league, but not keep a score of the game, as “it’s all a bit of fun and we don’t want winners and losers” – well how the hell will whip use be allowed in racing when we current older people are merely dust and these now young people are running the show?

Owners habitually say “we love our horses” and that’s supposed to be music to my ears and give me a warm and fuzzy feeling all over. The problem is that if “we love our horses” why do all owners allow a contracted rider, namely a jockey, to potentially what I’d call “belt the fur” off the horse, every couple of weeks – when that horse races? As an analogy, if a parent were to publicly state that “we love our child”, would it then be right for that same parent to hit their child with a padded whip every couple of weeks, even if that child was trying its hardest at the task that he or she had been set? In modern day Australia, the answer is the parent would be met with the full force of the law and would be in court on assault charges. Yet strangely in the racing industry, it’s somehow easier to just go with the flow “and look the other way”.

In closing, I also advise that from an integrity perspective, I instructed the people I employed to do my artwork to change the racing colours in the billboard photo, so as to protect the identity of the horse and jockey in my photo. Additionally, I advise that the whip action has not been altered from my original photo. Furthermore, all associated costs in the multiple currently displayed billboards have been privately paid for by myself and not so much as $1 was raised for the project via contact with any other “protestor” group that some in the racing industry choose to “mock”.

If you don’t believe any of the aforesaid text has any traction, then please click on the link below. Mainstream “racing journalists” who were on course at Flemington naturally saw nothing, as remember “it’s easier to look the other way”, but one female journalist penned this most interesting story about what she spotted in respect of the 2019 Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare.  

EDITOR’S NOTE: Phil Purser founded the Justracing website in 1997. He was named the 2005 media award winner for “the best print story by a newspaper, journal or website” by the governing body of racing in the State of Queensland – Racing Queensland. His first foray into the racing industry was via his calling harness racing at the Maryborough (Queensland) Showgrounds as a 12-year-old in 1967. Until his semi-retirement in late 2016 due to a health issue, he was Australia’s largest website owner, operating four racing websites with daily content Monday to Friday inclusive. He remains to this day, one of the few people in Australia who has owned winners across all three codes of thoroughbreds, harness and greyhounds. He’s the author of a 2006 published 606-page racing book, which contains cumulatively scores of biographies of racing people from across all three codes. He championed the cause of female jockeys in this country to the point where Jim Haynes in his 2015 published book “The Big Book of Australian Racing Stories” reproduced, with permission, Phil’s 2005 website story “Those Hopeless Sheilas Go Okay” back in an era when most males in thoroughbred racing considered female jockeys just “hopeless sheilas”. Amazingly, just 14 years on, the thoroughbred industry is heavily reliant on female jockeys. In 20 years of owning and operating racing websites, Phil put the first race club, first thoroughbred stud, first jockey and first trainer on what was then new technology called the Internet and along the way he helped scores of apprentice jockeys and young harness drivers on their path to success, by not only penning stories to give them a public profile, but also through his generous sponsorship to the Mini Trotters Association at not only race club level, but also at major events like Brisbane’s RNA Show. In 2005, one of his four racing websites raised enough funds to ensure Australia’s first female jockey, Wilhemena (“Bill”) Smith, a female who had ridden as a male, as females were banned from being jockeys back then, had a proper grave and appropriate headstone erected for her in Herberton Cemetery. She lay in an unmarked pauper’s grave at that cemetery before Phil got involved and righted what he saw was “a terrible wrong”. In 2010 Phil, his wife Denise, jockey Cecily Eaton and Lynlea Small, a licensed trainer and the wife of Group 1 winning jockey in four states, Cyril Small, organised a fundraiser function at Kedron Wavell Services Club in Brisbane for Chinchilla-based thoroughbred trainer Andrew Donnelly who had been badly injured in a trackwork fall. The fundraiser raised $30-odd thousand and gave Andrew some valuable breathing space to recover from his serious injuries and today Andrew is back training winners. An avid racing photographer, Phil also heavily promoted the three codes of the racing industry by placing tens of thousands of fully captioned photos across the various websites over two decades between 1997 to 2016. For many years, his opinion on all things racing was sought, when he was a regular on RadioTAB and television station Briz 31 and he had numerous educational punting articles reproduced in major publications like Practical Punting. As recently as August this year, Phil was the sole member of the public to answer a call in the weekly harness column of the local Ipswich newspaper, The Queensland Times, from the Marburg Pacing Association, for ideas from members of the public to increase revenue streams for the club. The club committee adopted his recommendation on the night of his presentation and a “50 Club” was formed whereby 50 individuals or businesses each put in $220 annually with a variety of prizes for winners. The 2019 version of the 50 Club has already been drawn and the club now sees the 50 Club as being capable of creating a valuable long-term revenue stream.

The current Australian Rules of Racing in respect of whip use read:

AR 132 Limits on the use of a whip by a rider

(1) A rider may only carry in races, official trials, jump-outs, or trackwork a padded whip of a design and specification approved by Racing Australia (“approved whip”) which is in a satisfactory condition and has not been modified in any way.

(2) A person must not have in his or her possession: (a) a whip which is not an approved whip; or (b) an approved whip which has been modified in any way.

(3) The Stewards may confiscate any whip which: (a)is not an approved whip; or (b)is an approved whip which, in their opinion, is not in a satisfactory condition or has been modified in any way.

(4) If an apprentice jockey breaches subrule (1) or (2), the master and/or other person in charge of the apprentice jockey at the time of the breach may also be penalised unless 68 that person satisfies the Stewards that he or she took all proper care to ensure the apprentice jockey complied with this rule.

(5) In a race, official trial, jump-out or trackwork, or elsewhere, a rider must not use his or her whip in an excessive, unnecessary or improper manner.

(6) Without limiting the generality of subrule (5), in a race, official trial or jump-out a rider must not use his or her whip: (a) forward of the rider’s horse’s shoulder or in the vicinity of its head; (b) using an action that raises the rider’s arm above shoulder height; (c) when the rider’s horse is out of contention; (d) when the rider’s horse is showing no response; (e) after passing the winning post; (f) causing injury to the rider’s horse; (g) when the rider’s horse is clearly winning; (h) when the rider’s horse has no reasonable prospect of improving or losing its position; (i) in a manner where the seam of the flap is the point of contact with the horse, unless the rider satisfies the Stewards that that was neither deliberate nor reckless.

(7) Subject to the other requirements in this rule: (a) prior to the 100 metre mark in a race, official trial or jump-out: (i) the whip must not be used in consecutive strides; (ii) the whip must not be used on more than 5 occasions except where there have only been minor infractions and the totality of the whip use over the whole race is less than permitted under subrules (7)(a) and (b) and also having regard to the circumstances of the race, including distance and context of the race (such as a staying race or a rider endeavouring to encourage the rider’s horse to improve); (iii) the rider may at the rider’s discretion use the whip with a slapping motion down the shoulder, with the whip hand remaining on the reins; (b) in the final 100 metres of a race, official trial or jump-out, a rider may use the whip at the rider’s discretion.

(8) A trainer, owner or their authorised agent must not give instructions to a rider regarding the use of the whip which, if carried out, might result in a breach of this rule.

(9) A person must not offer any inducements to a rider to use the whip in a way that, if carried out, might result in a breach of this rule.

(10) An owner or that owner’s authorised agent, trainer, rider or a Steward may lodge a protest against the placing of a horse where a rider breaches subrules (5) or (7) during a race.

(11) Notwithstanding the provisions of subrules 7(a) and (b), a PRA that has charge of the conduct of jumps racing may provide separately, at its own discretion, for the regulation of the use of the whip in jumping events under its own Local Rules. If that is done, any provision of that kind will not be limited by subrules 7(a) and (b).

JOHN LINGARD, the EDITOR of letsgohorseracing and RACING AROUND PTY LTD, the website publisher, has been a great fan of Phil Purser and what he has contributed to and achieved for the three codes of racing in Queensland. We have no hesitation in supporting his stand for WHIPS TO BE BANNED. 



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