Andrew Spinks rode half of the card at the Gold Coast on Saturday (where only four races were completed) but the first of those wins, aboard the Brian Smith trained Monster Of Power, came at a cost with Spinks being suspended for ten days for overuse of the whip.
That outcome left Spinks struggling to come to terms with what he was supposed to do in the type of situation he found himself in on Monster Of Power when totally immersed in a strong, prolonged stride for stride battle with Hudoo Vudoo.
Interestingly enough, Spinks has no problem with the whip rule in general or his suspension for breaking the rule … but he does feel that, in particular circumstances, the whip rule can place a jockey in a very difficult and unenviable position such as in this example, where Monster Of Power and Hudoo Vudoo locked horns for the full length of the straight with sustained momentum being the key to victory.
The point Spinks makes gives food for thought,
“Let me start by saying I do respect the whip rule,” said Spinks. “I can’t argue with it because we were consulted about them. The Jockey’s Association consulted us and we agreed to them … which is fair enough.
“At times like this I’m just bewildered who we are riding for,” continued Spinks. “My horse is the favourite, so I’m riding for the punter. I’m riding for the owners and trainer and a little bit for myself … but they are the main ones I am riding for … and I have no doubt that, if I put the whip away on Monster Of Power and rode him hands and heels, he would have got beat easy.
“I know that whip use can give a bad look … and that racing authorities are worried about that perception … and I understand that. This is not a whinge at the whip rule or why it has been implemented but, I have to ask, how bad a look would it have been if had put the whip away and got beaten.
“I accept that I went over the number of strikes permitted under the whip rule, but I was in a real two horse fight and just had to keep going to not upset my horse’s momentum. I was three strikes over the figure we are allowed over the whole race … I wasn’t ten strikes over or anything like that.
“As I said, I’m just bewildered about what I was supposed to do,” concluded Spinks.
We all know the counter arguments are there. ‘A rule is a rule’ … ‘You won unfairly if you go over the whip use figure allowed and the jockey of the runner-up doesn’t break the rule’ etc etc … and both of those are creditable points of view.
The stewards have to uphold the law and the connections of the runner-up might feel aggrieved that, as we all know, a whip-rule protest would serve no purpose … but, getting back to Spink’s question … what would your answer be?
Put the whip away and lose in what might be seen as dubious or controversial, even career affecting, circumstances … or keep your horse’s momentum firing by going a couple of strikes over … and win?
For a jockey caught in that moment, it’s not that easy a choice is it?