Thursday, July 20, 2017
When I was riding, the whip was at times a major topic in this column. Since the subject was raised in the Racing Post by Tom Kerr last week it has been in the spotlight once again. I now want to add a few of my own thoughts - and they may surprise you.
The modern whip is crafted so as not to hurt a horse. I'm therefore not one of those squeamish people who worries about seeing a horse being given a belt in the closing stages of a race. However, that only applies if the horse being hit is in contention at the time and is clearly responding to the whip.
What I cannot abide seeing is a horse being slapped when nowhere near the front of a race and plainly without a realistic chance of getting in the money.
When saying that, I'm very much speaking only about Flat racing, as jumping is very different. Sadly, I do see it happening on the Flat all the time, every day of the week. It really annoys me.
If a horse has no possible chance of winning or being placed a jockey should only ever ride with hands and heels.
Too many jockeys continue to hit their horses far beyond the point where they should have stopped doing so. That, in my opinion, is disgusting. To those in the world outside racing, where the potential problem of perception might exit, such a sight would be particularly ugly.
I know there are exceptions to any rule. For example, a big colt running lazily in a maiden might need a couple of cracks to get his mind on the job.
I'm also not saying this blatant misuse of the whip is a new thing. It isn't. It is, however, something that happens much too regularly and officials need to police it more.
As a crime, it is far worse than a jockey hitting a horse down the shoulder in the forehand position. That is harmless, yet a jockey can be suspended for it. The jockey who really should be banned is the one who has dropped from second or third to fifth or sixth and is still striking a horse that cannot possibly win. That jockey should have the book thrown at him.
My own opinion is some jockeys are using beaten horses as a way of practicing with the whip. In fact, I am certain that is the case. Young apprentices are much the biggest offenders. One of mine received a stern reminder from me about it. The good news is this isn't something synonymous with the sport's senior jockeys. All of them will put down their stick and ride with hands and heels once beaten.
I freely admit I was the weighing room's biggest offender for looking after the horses I was riding once their chance of winning was gone. That, in my opinion, is the right approach.
Seeing a horse being slapped for no reason really irritates me. Those who work in racecourse stewards' rooms should increasingly be looking for offenders not just at the front of the race but also at the back. By doing so they could start confronting a practice that, for me, cannot be defended.
We read this week that The Professional Jockeys Association is unhappy about the financial treatment of apprentices by trainers and is trying to persuade the BHA to change the way in which their financial relationship is structured.
Lee Mottershead made some strong comments in his Monday column, highlighting the difference between how things work over jumps compared to Flat racing, in which an agreement is in place whereby a trainer with an apprentice in the yard automatically through Weatherbys takes 50 per cent of any prize-money the rider earns.
People might think that is odd, and some will take the view trainers are almost robbing money off young jockeys. I honestly don't think that's how it is.
When a trainer gets a very good apprentice, there can obviously be decent money to be made. That, though, isn't how it is most of the time.
I have two horses in my yard whose main role is to be ridden in races by our apprentices, Finley Marsh, Stephen Cummins and Nicola Currie.
Those horses cost me £30,000 a year to keep. That's £60,000 I'm spending straightaway, but I need to spend it because, inevitably, apprentices make mistakes, especially when they are inexperienced. It's better for me that they make those mistakes on horses belonging to me, not my owners.
I know full well that once the apprentices reach a certain standard, I'll be the one to benefit, but I'm paying £60,000 a year for that to happen.
On top of that, some of my owners have been aggrieved when, on occasions, the apprentices haven't ridden as well as a senior jockey might have done. When that has happened, I've had to take it on the chin. I even almost had a horse taken away from the yard after a mistake was made in a race. These are young jockeys but I'm a young trainer, and I can't afford to be upsetting owners when it's not necessary
On the Lambourn gallops, owned and run by Jockey Club Estates, the rules allow me to have free gallops fees for one horse, provided that is a horse primarily meant to be ridden by an apprentice. That's helpful but it does only apply to just one horse at a time.
What would also be helpful is if the BHA waived entry fees for horses who were officially registered as 'apprentice' horses. The individual sums might not amount to much but they would add up and make keeping horses for the apprentices more cost-effective. That, in turn, would mean employing apprentices was more cost-effective.
Some of Britain's biggest trainers with over 100 horses do not have apprentices but are quite happy to exploit other people's apprentices with a valuable 5lb or 7lb claim, such as those based with Richard Hannon, Andrew Balding, Richard Fahey and Stan Moore.
If people like those four trainers weren't prepared to invest in apprentices, where would the sport be? Furthermore, there has to be an incentive for these guys to develop apprentices.
Josephine Gordon would be the first to admit she was not an overnight success. There was a long time when she couldn't get going and couldn't ride a winner. She had to stick at it. Stan stuck at it with her and gave her a chance. Without Stan, Josephine would now be taking home £300 a week. Instead, she's probably going to be banking £100,000 a year. When you see it that way, it's hard to say Josephine has been a loser in the relationship.
When sportsmen are attempting to build a career in a sport they often go through periods of relative hardship. Lee Westwood became one of the world's best golfers but he started out living in a caravan. You either make it or you don't, and in racing jockeys need the help of trainers to make it.
It's also worth stating that apprentices need lots of help when they lose their claim and become fully-fledged riders because it's then we often start to ignore them. We're all guilty of that, whether we're trainers, owners and punters.
The young kids get exploited when they have a claim - for the very reason they have that claim - but once those final 3lb are used up they get dropped.
For that reason, I'm not allowing Finley to ride in claimers or sellers, as I know for his own good it would be damaging to waste the advantage he holds in the lowest-grade races.
It's obvious it would be a positive step if both the PJA and the NTF could agree on a model that both sides genuinely believed to be fair. Let's hope they can.
This is one of the year's most ridiculously busy Saturdays but this time we're concentrating on Salisbury's evening meeting.
Among those to mention is Rock N Roll Global, who goes in the 1m2f handicap (8.20). His best runs have come at Kempton, including earlier in the week, when he looked as though moving back up to this trip would be helpful. He has a lower rating on turf than on the all-weather, so this represents a drop in grade.
Twenty Times will only run in the 1m4f handicap (7.50) if we feel the ground is slow enough for her. She went to Goodwood last time but tactically we got it wrong in slowly-run race that didn't suit her.
Shane Kelly felt Wannabe Friends didn't turn very well at Newbury last time, so we're hoping Salisbury's straight mile (7.20) will be more suitable.
We also introduce Romina, a lovely filly owned and bred by Philippa Cooper's Normandie Stud, in the 7f maiden. She is going to be at her best over further but this is a beautiful, free-going filly who we want to start over this distance before moving her up in trip.
On the quicker Newmarket track I can see Harry Angel reversing Ascot form with Caravaggio and landing the Darley July Cup.