Spring Racing Carnival strike averted
The threat of strike action by jockeys during the spring carnival has been averted after a compromise reached between riders and the Australian Racing Board (ARB) over the controversial whip rules.
The new rule, which coincided with the introduction of padded whips, came into effect on August 1 but jockeys rebelled after a few weeks saying restrictions were too harsh.
They walked off the job at racetracks around the country on Thursday after the ARB rejected their submission to change the rules but agreed not to take further industrial action pending Tuesday’s meeting.
Under the rule, jockeys were allowed to use the whip with a forehand action no more than seven times inside the last 100 metres of a race but not in consecutive strides.
The agreement reached between the Australian Jockeys’ Association (AJA) and the ARB in Melbourne on Tuesday allows the whip to be used seven times inside the last 100 metres at the rider’s discretion.
"This change will give us far greater discretion. The previous rules were proving unworkable and potentially compromising our safety," champion jockey Damien Oliver said.
"There are only 12 strides in the last 100 metres and we can use the whip for seven of them.
"This is not as strict as to how we use it and there may be times we don’t use it at all.
"It depends on the horse.
"We all love horses and the less we use it the better."
ARB chairman Bob Bentley said his board had not backed down under threat of industrial action and that the door had always been open for further discussion.
"This outcome achieves everything that is important to us so far as both safety of riders and the welfare of horses are concerned," Bentley said.
"From an animal welfare point of view the ARB’s objectives are still achieved in full – the level of use of the padded whip remains unchanged.
"At the same time the safety concerns of jockeys are also addressed. They are given an appropriate range of discretion as to how they use the whip in the finishing stages of a race."
The changes are tentatively marked for implementation on September 26 to allow a review of the penalties for breaches of the rules.
Leading Sydney rider Corey Brown has lodged an appeal against the severity of a penalty he received when runner-up in the recent Wyong Cup.
Brown also forfeited his riding fee and percentage of the prizemoney.
His appeal is set to be heard on September 22 but an industry source said it is now under review.
The panel reviewing the penalties will meet next Tuesday.
Under the current penalty system, a winning rider can be banned and fined but there is no recourse for protest by the connections of the runner-up.
The Australian Jockeys Association (AJA) welcomed the changes to the rules and the penalty structure.
"These changes won’t take the danger out of racing, but it will lessen the dangers jockeys face in the last 100 metres of a race," AJA chief executive Paul Innes said.
"We’re particularly happy to see the current penalties for riders breaching the rules put through the shredder.
"We’re confident the new independent panel will come up with something much more reasonable and acceptable.
"This is a win for the jockeys that put their lives on the line every day to keep our racing industry pumping as well as all the other industry stakeholders."
By Caryl Williamson