Even as millions watched, the industry’s notoriously troubled whips rules were flouted across the Melbourne Cup day racing program, including a trifecta of whip breaches in the main event.
Six jockeys – including all three place getters – were sanctioned for over-whipping, though the light penalties are starkly in contrast to the prize money on offer.
Kerrin McKevoy, jockey for winner Cross Counter was fined $3,000 for using his whip 4 times more than the 5 strikes permitted before the final 100 metres; Hugh Bowman on second-place winner Marmelo was suspended for a number of infringements, including using his whip 7 times more than permitted; and Michael Walker on third-place winner A Prince Of Arran was fined $400 for using his whip for 3 consecutive strides prior to the final 100 metres.
“With fines between $400 and $3,000, contrasting with prize money ranging from $150,000 to $4 million in the first 12 places, it’s easy to see why the regulations aren’t acting as a real deterrent for over-whipping during the Cup,” RSPCA Australia spokesperson Jane Speechley said.
“In fact, there were 74 whip breaches recorded by stewards across the country on Melbourne Cup Day, with only 13 of those resulting in fines, eight in reprimands, and one in a jockey suspension,
“It’s fair to ask how well the standards are being upheld when we look at these figures, and it’s fair for racegoers to be questioning the integrity of racing when rules are being so obviously and frequently broken,
“This continues to happen even though research clearly shows that 98% of horses are whipped without it affecting their race outcomes, and three out of four Australians think racehorses should not be whipped,
“A slap on the wrist is not enough to bring change to what is an entrenched system of cruel whip use in horse racing – especially when hard evidence hasn’t made a difference, amidst a web of increasingly complex rules,
“We need to level the playing field and stop whip use in horse racing altogether, to end this routine animal cruelty once and for all,” said Ms Speechley.
The death of horse The Cliffsofmoher has further illustrated the dark reality of horse racing, and highlighted the significant risks of injury and death to racehorses.
The RSPCA will continue to call for the racing industry to improve their efforts to meet community expectations and protect the welfare of horses involved.
The RSPCA is opposed to the use of whips for the purpose of enhancing performance in racing due to the pain and distress they inflict on horses. The RSPCA supports the introduction of hands-and-heels racing where whips are carried for safety purposes where proven necessary.
To have your say and call for Racing Australia to improve their animal welfare standards, visit https://www.rspca.org.au/campaigns/whips-racing.