The Horse Welfare report was published yesterday. By and large I think it was positive, and something that horsemen can support.
As regards the whip, there are a couple of points.
Firstly, the Horse Welfare Board (HWB) were handed this by the BHA. It was in the words of one board member ‘a hospital pass’. ‘Because no one can say categorically that the whip is a welfare issue’. So how did it get to be part of this review? Well it doesn’t take much to join up the dots; The BHA is a tripartite body, made up of the Horsemen, the BHA and the racecourses (RCA). The Horsemen didn’t ask for it as part of the review. The BHA have been talking about stronger whip penalties for at least 18 months, and the RCA have falling attendances as a matter of priority. Simon Bazalgette (outgoing CEO of the Jockey Club Racecourses) made it clear in December that he thought the whip was a welfare issue, when he said ‘the whip clearly has some effect based around fear’ and hoped ‘that in 5 years time it is not used for encouragement’.
Thankfully, it is clear from the HWB’s comments that they agree with Andrew Balding and consider the whip ‘low down on the list of priorities’. I have no doubt that we would have had stiffer whip penalties at least 9 months ago, if it wasn’t for a combination of the RCA wanting a discussion on the whip being banned, and the PJA understandably wanting penalties to remain the same.
The other problematic issue is the traceability aspect, i.e. How does the BHA keep track of horses after they have left training? Indeed, the HWB ‘have not formed a definite view on how this is best achieved’.
Given that British flat racing is sustainable because of the strong resale value of racehorses in the UK, my prediction is this; Nearly all flat horses will go to a bloodstock sale in the future, because even at the very bottom of the market they are worth something. Hence owners and trainers won’t be held accountable for their future, and in turn this will mean that ‘Retraining of Racehorses’ will have to adapt. But then that may not be a bad thing.
Two runners today, I am hoping that Lady Sansa makes it a winning month; We don’t have many bullets left to fire in February.