Whips And Sponsorship

Well as day three of the new whip rule dawns I’m pleased to report that racing has not died a sudden death and that life carries on as normal.

That may be something of a surprise though if you have been taking note of all the doom laden and, in most cases, frankly ludicrous talk there has been on the subject.

There has been so much verbal diarrhoea spouted it is surprising there is not an outbreak of oral cholera within the industry.

The problem is there are so many entrenched and emotive opinions in the debate that many, on both sides, are not even prepared to listen to what the other side has to say.

As I have previously stated, I generally welcome the new rules and, even more so, the strong deterrent penalties, whilst having some reservations about the actual numerical guidelines, especially in national hunt racing.

Despite these reservations I unlike, it seems, many am prepared to give the new rules a go and see how they work.

Interestingly the first day of the new rules saw two bans handed out by the Salisbury Stewards and they, in a way, exemplified both sides of the argument.

Both bans came in the same race.

Kieren Fox was handed a 15 day ban for hitting his horse eleven times inside the final furlong, exceeding the new limit by four strokes.  In my view this is a pretty open and shut case as Fox flagrantly disregarded the new rules, almost cocking a snook at the new regulations and, as a result has paid the price. Needless to say connections of the horse, which went on to win, defended the rider clearly showing their philosophy that winning at all costs is more important than abiding by the rules.

That the horse was able to win and retain the race by virtue of breaking the rules illustrates the folly of not withholding the winning owners prize money as well, indeed of not disqualifying the winning horse.

Some argue the winning owners should not be punished due to the wrongdoing on a rider. Taking that argument to its logical conclusion it could be argued a horse should never be disqualified no matter how serious a riding offence a jockey commits. That is plainly untenable.

In addition the owner is effectively employing the jockey to ride his horse. It seems racing is the only industry in the country where employers (the owners) are not ultimately held accountable for the actions of their employees (the jockeys).

The five day ban handed to Richard Hughes in the same race, however, shows the difficulty of having an absolute limit. Most reasonable observers of the sport would have found very little wrong with Hughes’ ride but he was banned for exceeding the new rules by one strike inside the final furlong. He was arguing one of the strikes was given for safety reasons. Yes, technically he is in breach of the new rules but his ban does illustrate some of the ambiguity and I believe a ban under the entry point of five days would probably have been more appropriate. It will be interesting to see what happens when Hughes appeals.

In the next few days we have Cheltenham’s first meeting under the new rules and, of course, Champions Day at Ascot, both will be extremely interesting, both in terms of what the jockeys do and how the Stewards will act.

 

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Sponsorship has become an important factor in the sport and with diminishing Levy returns the income from sponsorship has become imperative for the racecourses.

I do wonder if race courses would draw the line at some forms of sponsorship?

As I write this I am thinking of one race in particular, namely the Sun Chariot Stakes, one of Newmarket’s major races of the year, for the race is sponsored by The Kingdom Of Bahrain.

Last week in what amounted to a political show trial, a group of doctors and nurses were convicted of various “subversion” offences with the convictions seemingly made on the basis of “confessions” extracted by alleged torture and sexual abuse. In truth these doctors and nurses were being prosecuted or should that be persecuted because they followed the Hippocratic Oath and treated anti-government protesters during the recent uprising.

Notwithstanding these show-trials the human rights record in Bahrain is appalling and one wonders why racing would want to be associated with such a repugnant regime.

As far as racing is concerned is it a matter of grabbing the money at any cost without considering the morality of its source?

Does racing really want to be financed by blood money?

It will be very interesting to see if racing continues its sponsorship links with Bahrain in 2012 and it will be interesting to see how it responds to the backlash if it does.  

Whilst Bahrain is perhaps an extreme example, it is not the only example of racing accepting money from questionable regimes or businesses and it is a subject worthy of much more detailed research and investigation – watch this space.

 

   

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