EXCESSIVE use of the whip is set to be banned at Towcester Racecourse.
The ban has to be approved by the British Horseracing Association (BHA), but if approved it would mean jockeys could only use a whip for steering animals.
Even before two horses died as a result of the this year’s Grand National, the BHA had announced it would be holding a comprehensive review of the use of the whip to spur horses on.
Now Towcester officials have written to the BHA for permission to run races under the ‘hands and heels’ rule from October this year.
Racecourse manager Kevin Ackerman said: “Our proposal for ‘hands and heels’ racing means jockeys still have a whip but only use it for steering purposes in the backhand position and their hands are constantly in contact with the reins. If these measures are exceeded, then the punishment must fit the crime.
“We are hopeful that our governing body will look at this move in a positive light and if they do sanction Towcester to be the pilot racecourse to run under the ‘hands and heels’ rules, it will enable us to assess the effect on crowd levels and betting turnover and report back our findings.”
Two-time Grand National winner Carl Llewellyn is consultant to Nigel Twiston-Davies, one of Towcester Racecourse’s most successful trainers.
He welcomed experimentation in professional races but still thinks jockeys need the whip to get the best out of their horse.
Comparing horses to humans Mr Llewellyn said: “A lot of people given the choice will sit and watch television and horses are the same.
“Some will work for you, some are lazy, so we would see different results in quite lot of races. Whether that’s good or not? Probably not.”
John Upson, owner of Glebe Stable in Maidford, has been racing for 30 years and regularly sees his animals compete at Towcester.
He said it was a typically daring move by course owner Lord Hesketh, who was the first to introduce free admission to a racecourse, and added: “I agree with it completely. I think undoubtedly people are worried about horses being hit in this day an age.”
Jane Nixon, owner of the Nixon Equine Veterinary Practice in Maids Moreton, has been the on-duty vet at Towcester Racecourse for 33 years. She cannot recall a horse leaving the track suffering from over use of the whip but added: “Equally we won’t get those thrilling finishes by removing the whip and the way it is used at this time.
“But it will still be a horse race and at one of the most exciting venues in the country.”