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Is Whip Use Important to Thoroughbred Racing Integrity? What Stewards’ Reports Reveal about Fairness to Punters, Jockeys and Horses

1
University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA 5034, Australia
2
School of Geosciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
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Dene Stansall, Animal Aid, The Old Chapel, Bradford Street, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1AW, UK
4
School of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(11), 1985; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10111985
Received: 9 October 2020 / Revised: 21 October 2020 / Accepted: 22 October 2020 / Published: 29 October 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Equids)
As a multibillion-dollar industry involving gambling and animals, fairness is essential to thoroughbred racing. This is referred to as racing integrity. Whilst there are comprehensive rules and regulations governing equipment and conduct, whip use is the most publicly visible enforcement of integrity in racing. As a tool for “encouragement”, whip use is believed to give everyone a fair chance of winning, including owners, trainers, jockeys, horses and punters. As a tool for “steering”, whip use is also believed to be essential for the safety of the horse and jockey. However, the impact of whip use on steering and safety has not been studied. In this article, we compare “whipping-free” races in Great Britain, where whips are held but not used with the more commonplace “whipping-permitted” races. Our analysis of stewards’ reports for 126 races involving 1178 starters over three years found no statistically significant differences between stewards having anything to report, movement on course, interference on course, incidents related to jockey behaviour or race finishing times. Our findings, that whip use is not related to racing integrity, support the normalisation of “whipping-free” races, which we expect to improve horse welfare and social acceptance.
The idea that whip use is critical to thoroughbred racing integrity is culturally entrenched but lacks empirical support. To test the longstanding beliefs that whip use aids steering, reduces interference, increases safety and improves finishing times, we conducted a mixed-method analysis of 126 race reports produced by official stewards of the British Horseracing Authority, representing 1178 jockeys and their horses. We compared reports from 67 “Hands and Heels” races, where whips are held but not used (whipping-free, WF), with 59 reports from case-matched races where whipping was permitted (whipping permitted, WP). Qualitative coding was used to identify and categorise units of analysis for statistical testing via logistic regression and linear mixed model regression. For both types of race, we explored stewards having anything to report at all, movement on course, interference on course, incidents related to jockey behaviour and finishing times. There were no statistically significant differences between WF and WP races for anything to report (OR: 3.06; CI: 0.74–14.73), movement on course (OR: 0.90; CI: 0.37–2.17), interference (OR: 0.90; CI: 0.37–2.17), jockey-related incidents (OR: 1.24; CI: 0.32–5.07), and race times (0.512 s, t = 1.459, p = 0.150). That is, we found no evidence that whip use improves steering, reduces interference, increases safety or improves finishing times. These findings suggest that the WF races do not compromise racing integrity. They also highlight the need for more effective ways to improve the steering of horses. View Full-Text
Keywords: jockeys; safety; steering; risk; social license to operate; public perception; integrity jockeys; safety; steering; risk; social license to operate; public perception; integrity
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Thompson, K.; McManus, P.; Stansall, D.; Wilson, B.J.; McGreevy, P.D. Is Whip Use Important to Thoroughbred Racing Integrity? What Stewards’ Reports Reveal about Fairness to Punters, Jockeys and Horses. Animals 2020, 10, 1985.

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