Racing Victoria (RV) wishes to advise that the upcoming Country Mile Race Series will now be used to trial the limited use of the whip in races.
The Country Mile Race Series, which is exclusive to Victorian country trainers, will be showcased throughout the 2021 Festival of Racing in February and March and collectively offer $625,000 in prizemoney.
The five heats and final of the series will now be conducted under race conditions which will provide for the whip to be used no more than five times throughout the entire race. This is compared to the current rules that limit use the whip to five times prior to the 100-metre mark and unlimited use thereafter.
The trial will assist with gathering data and learnings in areas such as racing and wagering outcomes, fan engagement and sentiment, level of participant support, adaptation to the conditions by riders, conduct and safety of the race, and the consistency of form lines.
This information will be invaluable in informing the review of potential changes to rules governing the use of the whip that is currently being conducted by Racing Australia.
While the main objective of the trial is to gather information on the impact of limiting the use of the whip, it is also necessary to ensure an appropriate penalty framework applies to both the heats and the final of the series.
Accordingly, in the event a rider breaches the permitted five uses of the whip in a heat:
- the rider will be fined and/or suspended (pursuant to the penalty framework outlined below) and will not be able to ride in the final of the Country Mile Race Series (if the breach occurs in a heat and they use the whip on 8 or more occasions); and
- if the rider uses their whip on eight or more occasions in a heat, the horse subjected to that breach will be ineligible to compete in any further heats or the final of the Country Mile Race Series.
In the event a rider breaches the permitted five uses of the whip in the final:
- the rider will be fined and/or suspended (pursuant to the below penalty framework); and
- no action will be taken against the horse subjected to that breach.
If a rider is fined a percentage of their prizemoney, this amount will be paid to the Jockey Welfare Program.
The Stewards shall also retain a discretion, if a whip is used in contravention of the race conditions, to:
- not penalise a rider; and/or
- not prevent the rider and/or horse from continued participation in the Country Mile Series,
if that excessive whip use was necessary to ensure the safety of horses and/or riders in the race.
The whip penalty framework for the Country Mile Race Series is as follows:
Quotes attributable to RV Executive General Manager – Racing, Greg Carpenter
“Racing Victoria has publicly outlined since September 2020 that it believes whip reform is essential if racing is to retain its existing audiences and ensure that the sport is attractive for the fans and employees of the future.
“The trial of races with limited use of the whip throughout the upcoming Country Mile Races Series is an important exercise which will assist us with gathering data in areas such as wagering, fan engagement, participant support, conduct and safety of the race, and impacts on form lines. This information can only add value to the quality of the deliberations by all of the State Principal Racing Associations that will be debating potential changes to current whip rules over coming months.
“We acknowledge this initiative has mixed support from some industry stakeholder groups. However, we thank them for their input to the process to this point and we can only reiterate that we see little downside to running this trial and using the learnings to better inform the discussion on this critical issue.
“We hope that participants will engage in the series in the spirit intended and the penalty regime is designed to reflect that. If there is a breach and forfeiture of any prizemoney by a jockey, it will go to the Jockey Welfare Program and not be retained by Racing Victoria.
“While this trial represents just six races of more than 4,000 run in Victoria each year, the data and learnings that come from it will be invaluable as we look to shape the future of racing for generations to come.”
The current Australian Rules of Racing permit the use of the whip a maximum of five times in non-consecutive strides prior to the 100m mark and at the rider’s discretion in the final 100m of a race where its use in consecutive strides is permitted.
Britain (7 times per race), Ireland (8), Germany (5) and France (5) limit the number of permitted uses across the totality of the race, while in the USA, the states of California and Kentucky have announced recent reductions in their permitted totality (6).
The 2021 Country Mile Race Series will feature the following races:
The first three placegetters in each heat will automatically qualify for the final which will be conducted as Benchmark 80 race in what is an enhancement to The All-Star Mile support program.
To be eligible horses must be prepared by a licensed country Victorian trainer – being one that does not have a metropolitan stable at Flemington or Caulfield – and have been in their care since 1 January 2021 as per an official stable return.
To read the full details of the series click here.