The race that stops a nation has been run and won by the Gai Waterhouse trained Fiorente, but the happenings in the morning and even post races are almost more interesting to true racing lovers. A rumour began to circle the track shortly after Race 3 and soon the media were alerted to the fact that Stewards had been told, that two runners in the Melbourne Cup had received treatment in the morning. Dunaden and Tres Blue eventually ran 11th and 23rd in the race, but that shouldn’t make the issue go away.
Trainers Mikel Delzangles and Gai Waterhouse both apologised for the incident. Gai said it was an “honest mistake” while Mikel called it a “big mistake”. Either way you look at it, it isn’t a mistake any top trainer should be making on a Melbourne Cup runner. In any other business, this is a mistake you would lose your job for.
The fact that the treatments were prohibited under the rules doesn’t even come into the conversation. The rules are simple and they state that you can’t treat a horse on race day. The general conscious on Twitter from experts and amateur’s alike was that the horses should have been scratched. So why did the stewards turn a blind eye to the incident and use their ‘discretion’? ‘Horse racing can’t afford another controversy’ was one of the most common suggestions while others said that ‘you can’t scratch international runners from the Melbourne Cup for using legal treatments; you won’t see any trainer sending runners here next year’. Whatever the reason, the stewards will need to take this matter very seriously when they re-open the inquiry and punishments must be severe.
While the race-day treatment incident is a big issue, there is an equally troubling matter to come out of this spring for me. Rules are put in place and shouldn’t be broken, yet jockeys in ALL the big races are breaking the whipping rule. Different horses respond differently to the whip and if you can get 2-3 lengths more out of your horse in a race worth $3,600,000 for first price, taking a ‘fine’ seems a very smart strategy. A jockey breaking the whipping rule is giving their horse an unfair advantage. There is no other way to put it. And to be fair, the punishment for breaking the rule in a big race doesn’t justify riding within the rules.
International jockey Gerald Mosse was fined $1000 for breaking the whipping rule in the Melbourne Cup today. Not only did he break the rule, he throw it out the window, got in his car, drove over it and laughed as he was whipping his car while driving away. The rule states that a jockey can only use the whip FOUR times in a forehand manner prior to the 100m mark. Mr Mosse whipped Red Cadeaux NINE times before the 100m mark. More than double the allowed limit. His horse ended up running second in the race, with the owners of the horse receiving $900,000 for the win. A jockey will normally get 10% (5% if the fee and then in big races there is a custom for 5% more) of that. Let’s assume he didn’t get the tip, so he received $45,000 for the ride and was only fined $1000 for severely breaking a rule. Geez aren’t we fools? I must point out that Brett Prebble was also fined $750 for whipping his horse TEN times before the 100m mark in a forehand manner. His mount finished 44 lengths off the winner in 21st.
This incident of jockey’s over-whipping their horses in Group races isn’t a stand alone event. Chad Schofield was fined $1000 for using the whip SIX times in a forehand manner prior to the 100m on the COX PLATE winner Shamus Award. Jamie Spencer on Saturday was fined $750 for using his whip SIX times in a forehand manner on his mount Side Glance in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes. He won the race.
Surely that has to be it? Nope! Michael Walker in the Lexus Stakes (Group 3) was fined $1000 for whipping his horse Let’s Make a Deal FOURTEEN times in a forehand manner prior to the 100m mark. That is more than three times the allowed number. He used his whip for several consecutive strides before the 100m and was fined a further $500. His mount ran a close second in the race.
But wait, it doesn’t stop there. The AAMI Victoria Derby is involved as well. Hugh Bowman on the WINNER Polanski was fined $750 for whipping his mount SEVEN times in a forehand manner prior to the 100m mark.
These are trainers and jockey’s with 10, 20, 30+ years of experience in the game of racing. They know the rules and they know they can break them. The integrity of the industry is at stake and we are playing too soft. The whipping rule MUST be enforced with suspensions. If it is an international jockey, it must be rolled over to their next visit or we need an agreement with their industry body that the ruling will be carried over.