Whip issue a massive problem with no easy solution

ONE of the great debates raging at the moment, both here and across the water, is the use of the whip by jockeys.

It got a very high profile airing at Newmarket on Saturday, following Henrythenavigator’s victory in the English 2000 Guineas.

Kevin Manning, who partnered hot-pot New Approach, was suspended for five days, after hitting his mount beyond the winning post.

You couldn’t argue with that, but the decision to give Johnny Murtagh two days left a bit of a sour taste.

Murtagh was exceptional on Henrythenavigator, squeezing the last ounce out of his mount to beat New Approach in, essentially, the only way which was possible.

This was a classic with millions at stake and, like it or not, winning at all costs really was the only game in town.

For jockeys in such a position, it is a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Damned by the stewards if you do and damned by your employers if you don’t.

Any right thinking pilot will always go for broke and be prepared to suffer the consequences subsequently. It’s just a no-brainer.

Fast-forward to Sligo on Sunday and yet another whip ban for Ruby Walsh, this time in a lowly maiden hurdle on Rare Article.

Rare Article was a heavily-backed favourite, 2-1 to 11-8, but looked stuffed out of the gate approaching the final flight.

I’ve watched the race again and there’s no doubt that Walsh’s body language, just before the hurdle, indicates he thinks he’s going to finish third or, possibly, second at a push.

It’s a short run in at Sligo and Lady Lenson, at this stage, held a healthy advantage and appeared home and hosed.

Rare Article seemed jaded at the flight and Walsh just asked her to pop it. When he looked up, however, he saw Lady Lenson dying a thousand deaths and hanging away to the left as well.

So what was Walsh supposed to do now? Don’t ask stupid questions, of course he galvanised his mare and she responded.

That he was very hard on her is beyond dispute, indeed I’d say he gave her about a dozen whacks in all, but she kept answering the call.

He changed the whip from his right hand to his left and back again faster than Clint Eastwood in Josey Wales.

By the time the line was reached Rare Article, remarkably, was a head in front of Lady Lenson and, for punters, it was case of forming an orderly queue to get paid.

Walsh’s reward, however, besides his fee and percentage of the prizemoney, was a suspension for two days.

There was a style, a swagger and, above all, a sense of timing from Murtagh at Newmarket that was quite magnificent.

Walsh at Sligo was about raw power and an unbelievable will to win, which has lined the pockets of many punters for a long time.

In the end, though, the outcome was the same. Narrow victories for their mounts, but punishment for the men in the plate.

Racing is the only sport in the world where people are banned for trying too hard. Public perception is important, although we shouldn’t overestimate it, and the stewards have a job to do.

But there is no doubt that for the professionals in the game, especially the jockeys involved, the whip issue has become a huge irritation. It is a massive problem, for which there is no easy solution.

************

COULDN’T believe the performance of Aidan O’Brien’s Galileo filly, Adored, in a maiden at Gowran Park on Sunday.

Nibbled at in the market, from 8-1 to 6-1, she won by a National Hunt distance, 11 lengths. It translated to staggering improvement on her seasonal debut at Leopardstown, when finishing 10th of 12 behind Beach Bunny.

Oh, and why was O’Brien’s Hebridean on offer as high as 3-1 in the seven-runner 12 furlongs conditions race at Gowran?

He clearly had a nice bit in hand on Unwritten Rule, on their previous running at Leopardstown, and there was no reason why that horse should beat him or be a shorter price. Man doth not live by wages alone you know!


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