A 16-year-old student has devised technology to help jockeys avoid bans for overuse of the whip.
Matthew Cullen from Castleconnor, Co Sligo, has developed a device called Eqwhip which tells jockeys if they have reached their quota through an ear device linked through bluetooth to the tiny computer circuit in the whip. An LED light on the whip handle will also turn on and the whip can be set to ride over jumps or the flat, depending on the jockey’s wishes.
The St Muredach’s College student has been granted a provisional worldwide patent for his project and has already been in talks with several jockeys and the Turf Club.
“I have a programmed counter in the whip,” he said.
“I’ve it programmed to a record a set number of times. Then I have my sensors at the bottom of the whip, it reads each time the horse is hit but it has to be over a certain force to count as a hit.
“The jockey will wear an ear piece and a bleep will go off either when they have one hit left or when they have used up all of their hits depending on what the jockey prefers. Both versions will be available to buy when I bring it to market.”
He plans to introduce it to whip manufacturers and, if it is accepted by the British Horseracing Authority, could be used as proof in disputes between stewards and jockeys to prove the rule was not broken.
However the invention came about by pure luck though.
“When I was in fourth year I was sick with glandular fever,” he said.
“Because I missed so much time I went back and did Transition Year. One of my teachers told me about this competition [national student enterprise awards] and to think of an idea for it.
“It was back when the rule was coming out so I researched my idea and there was no evidence that this had ever been done before and I got great feedback from it.”
He worked with physics teacher Kevin Boyle, neighbour Derek Mahony and Charlie Cahill, CEO of Blue Tree Systems, to develop the idea and plans to improve it further in the coming year.
“I’m going to try and commercialise it and get in contact with whip manufacturers,” he said.
“I want to get it introduced to horse racing and hopefully down the line it will become mandatory.”
Born into a racing background — his father John James Cullen is a licensed horse trainer and his brother John is a farrier — he hopes the whip will be used across the world one day.
“I think that there is potential for it to go worldwide with the rule in place in Australia also.
“If you look at it this way every jockey is going to have at least three whips. You would have amateurs as well as professionals [using it] so it has massive potential.”
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