Flouting the whip rule to try and win a multi-million dollar race is nothing new … but, by any standards, Kerrin McEvoy’s use of the whip on the runner-up Tiger Moth in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup arguably did both the rider and the industry a disservice.
Make no mistake, McEvoy is a great rider … one of Australia’s finest … but he would be hard pressed to convince most people that he was not aware of what he was doing when striking Tiger Moth, a young horse only having his fifth race start, a huge eight times more before the 100m mark than is allowable under the Rules Of Racing. (His whip use was reported as being thirteen times before the 100m and twenty-one times overall).
Maybe, he wasn’t aware but he was found culpable either way.
A $50,000 fine and a thirteen-meeting suspension came down heavily on McEvoy … but, beyond that, the penalties meant little of consequence in terms of the race result itself.
Tiger Moth still kept his second placing. Prince Of Arran, whose rider Jamie Kah had ridden within the rules, was less than a quarter of a length back in third place. Did McEvoy’s breach make a difference between second and third placing where, by the way, the prizemoney difference is a not unsubstantial $550,000?
That is an old argument … where no steward wants to go … so where does racing go from here with the whip issue.
Racing surely can’t leave it at that!
Clearly, as many participants have pointed out until they are blue in the face, the rule does not work in a number of aspects, either in ensuring that whip use is contained or, arguably, in ensuring that the justice is applied in the actual race results themselves.
So here, firstly, is a thought out of left field to offset both of those unhealthy and derisive factors.
If racing authorities are intent on staying with and using a ‘set number of strikes’ criteria … then set another threshold … a high number of strikes which if reached, by a jockey showing scant regard for the rule, would then lead to the disqualification of the horse in question.
Of course, that is a radical suggestion. Many will want to reject the idea and nobody would want to go that far if you didn’t have to … but that rule would both serve as a deterrent to those thinking of breaking the rule as well as bringing some justice to those who rode by the rule-book.
If that rule had applied on Tuesday, Tiger Moth would not have earned $1.1 million dollars and McEvoy would be paying his fine out of his pocket and not out of his stakes winning percentage.
Don’t you think that might have some effect on jockey’s future actions in the saddle?
Having said that there is, of course, a much better way for racing to undo the mess it has made of the whip rule.
Just do what most stakeholders want … abolish the rule altogether … but empower stewards with all the power they need to ensure that any form of whip abuse will be countered with severe penalties.
As always, quite often it a simple solution which solves a complicated problem.
In the old days, before authorities decided to pander to the perception of those least knowledgeable about the game, excessive use of the whip was always a breach of the rules, but rides in that respect were judged by seasoned stewards with criteria not necessarily involving any number count on actual whip strikes.
Irish trainer Ted Walsh’s probably put it best when he gave his view on the evolvement of the new whip rules back in 2019 in an interview in which took no prisoners on the whip issue. (Walsh is father of champion jumps jockey Ruby Walsh).
“Introducing the numbers was the biggest mistake they (the authorities) ever made because they backed themselves into a corner,” said Walsh. “Why do you have to go one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. There have been loads of good stewards over the years who would say … ‘oh, you misbehaved there, and they would give you a few days.
“Once they brought in the number, they had no choice (but to act) if you go over. It is like the speed limit.
“Don’t be pampering to the fellows who want to stop racing altogether. There is no use modifying anything. They won’t be happy until there is no racing.
Walsh then famously added, “Racing is what it is. If you don’t like racing, go and watch Peppa Pig.”
I’m with him!
* While Kerrin McEvoy and his ride on Tiger Moth was used as an example here, it must be noted that he is by no means a lone offender with regard to the whip rule … far from it … all the more reason for the whip rule to be reviewed with immediate effect.