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Racing - Use of Whips


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 9 September 2021

Tags: Horse Racing, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - I want to talk to you about harness racer, Gavin Kelly, who was fined by the stewards for refusing to use a whip. That is, he was fined for refusing to be cruel. I have spoken to Mr Kelly who was in a state of frustration and disbelief that the stewards would target him because he refused to use a whip. He is a very experienced harness racer who knew he didn't have to use a whip.

What steps have you taken as minister or what steps have ORI or TasRacing taken to make sure that participants in the racing industry who choose not to be cruel or chose not to use a whip are not targeted by stewards?

Ms HOWLETT - That is a good question. It created a lot of media. As a result of the incident, ORI has updated the Office of Racing Integrity Harness policies and procedures to the document and added Rule 156 - Whips Policy -

Under race conditions a driver must always have a whip readily accessible in the event it is required to be used for safety purposes.

The whip doesn't have to be carried in the hand. It just has to be present in the sulky or in the dash or by the driver but it does not need to be used.

A driver shall not strike with a whip any gear or equipment connected to their horse including a wheel disc, with an action that allows the whip to protrude outside the confines of the sulky.

Well aware of that and, as I said, ORI have updated that. Carrying a whip can also be a safety issue to, particularly for a lot of younger horses as well. Do you agree, deputy secretary?

Ms WILSON - I don't think there is anything further I can add to that.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, there are jurisdictions that have removed the requirement altogether for a whip. We looked hard for any evidence that it is a safety issue for a driver or a rider to have to have a whip. Is any consideration at all being given to a general prohibition on whips? If a rider is not skilled enough to control their horse without a whip, what are they doing on the track?

Ms HOWLETT - The whip rule is always evolving in both the thoroughbred code and the harness code. We follow the national rules as it stands.

Ms O'CONNOR - Have you some fresh information on whips?

Ms HOWLETT - No, it is just about the national harness code. It is reactive to change, and social expectations by regulating the actions allowed by the driver. The national rules have been progressively tightened, first to ban the use of the shoulder and more recently to the elbow. The current rule only allows the use of the whip in a flicking action. We can see that over time the whip rule is changing.