Jockey Strike Threatens Spring Racing Carnival

The Spring Racing Carnival may be under threat if conflicts between the AJA and ARB do not resolve in the coming days.

The Australian Racing Board has failed to accept the requests of the AJA to allow jockeys unlimited whip use in the final 100 metres and as a result jockeys from Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia have walked out during race meetings held yesterday.

Although jockeys wanted to continue the strike throughout the weekend Rosehill and Moonee Valley races, the AJA has postponed the strike until Tuesday.

The strike was sparked by the introduction of new whip rules on August 1, prohibiting the jockey from whipping the horse more than 18 times in a race and only 3 times in the final 200 metres.

The Australian Jockeys Association wants the law scrapped stating that they and the ARB have a responsibility to stakeholders to push the horses to their full potential.

Racing Victoria’s Chief Operating Officer Bernard Saundry is confident that there will be no more race cancellations however Des O’Keefe from the AJA has not ruled out disrupting the Spring Racing Carnival, including the Melbourne Cup.

While Mr O’Keefe states that horse welfare is at the front of the industry’s mind, the RSPCA is keeping a close eye on jockeys and are prepared to prosecute any rider who whips a racehorse more than 18 times.

With jockeys such as Glen Boss and Damien Oliver making a stand against the ARB, the AJA has the support of many horse trainers including Gai Waterhouse and David Hayes who are supporting the jockeys especially since the introduction of the padded whip.

However leading racehorse owner Lloyd Williams does not agree with the AJA’s strike and has stated that racing could and must manage without them for the good of the spring carnival.

As apprentices are not bound to the AJA, trainers will still be able to select from a number of apprentices to ride their horses including 28 licensed riders in Victoria.

With only one percent of jockeys having breached the new rule, there is no doubt that riders are able to abide by the rules however jockeys have argued that the changes jeopardise their safety as they are focusing more on the number of times they use the whip rather than the race itself.

The ARB is now digging their heels in harder with Andrew Harding stating that although some people will find the change difficult, the rules will not be changed.

Racing Victoria is confident that the matter will be resolved before the Spring Carnival takes off on September 30.

With the Melbourne Cup approaching quickly, it is in the interest of everyone to resolve the matter as soon as possible, if one day’s strike can cause a downturn of $2.8 million in turnover, imagine what will happen during the Spring Racing Carnival.