Towcester set to outlaw use of whip
Towcester, the small rural racecourse set in some of Northamptonshire's most picturesque countryside, is set make racing history in October when it becomes the first of Britain's 60 tracks to outlaw the use of the whip by jockeys in any of its races.
From the track's meeting on October 5, every race staged at the course will be run under rules currently in place for the successful 'hands and heels' series of races.
This series, run in conjunction with the British and Northern racing schools, is staged at a number of tracks, both Flat and jumping, and is ostensibly to teach inexperienced jockeys and amateur riders how to get the best out of a horse without recourse to the whip.
One of the rules of that series is that jockeys must carry a whip. They can pull it through from one hand to the other as often as they like and hit a horse down the shoulder with it in a backhand position.
However, they cannot smack a horse down the neck in the forehand position, behind the saddle or encourage it by waving the whip parallel to its head. Failure to obey the rules results in automatic disqualification.
The debate about the use of the whip, nearly 20 years after officials introduced rules to curb overuse by riders, has become racing's hottest potato in the couple of weeks since Jason Maguire was banned for five days for 'excessive use' on the Grand National winner Ballabriggs.
Donald McCain's giant gelding subsequently had to be dismounted directly after the finishing post of the four-and-a-half mile race and the spectacle was watched by millions on television.
In the week after the National, the British Horseracing Authority had more negative feedback from the public about Maguire's use of the whip than it did about the two horses which died as a result of falls in the race. (© Daily Telegraph, London)