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By Damian Browne | Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Brownie’s Blog is the weekly blog of multiple Group 1 winning jockey Damian Browne. In this edition Brownie tackles the difficult subject of the on-going whip rule problem which continues to plague the racing industry with seemingly no real solution in sight. Brownie’s informed and detailed commentary covers a lot of ground and it is certain to give many racing enthusiasts plenty of food for thought. This Brownie’s Blog – exclusive to HRO.

The whip rule keeps cropping up … if you’ll pardon the pun … and it really is no laughing matter.

Firstly, let’s put one argument to bed immediately.

Jockeys have to carry a whip. They definitely need to have it. Obviously, there are a lot of horses. They can do things unexpectedly in a race and the whip is an essential asset to a rider when used properly.

So, any argument about taking the whip away completely doesn’t make any sense and, in fact, it could leave riders and horses in the middle of a situation where a disaster is waiting to happen. Given the high emphasis on health and safety these days … for both horse and rider … that simply cannot be allowed to happen.

Even show-jumpers carry them. Most people who ride horses or drive horses need to have the whip.

Having said that, the recent gross breach of the whip rule by some senior riders is a point of concern.

I don’t know how jockeys who do that don’t know how far they are over the limit. If you are one, two or three over … sometimes that might be pretty hard to keep track of in the heat of the action, sometimes you are not looking for the 100m mark and all that sort of thing … but I think it would be difficult to say you didn’t realise what you were doing when you are ten or fifteen over.

Some of the excuses that have been offered really don’t cut it. An inexperienced rider might come up with some of the things we have heard from senior riders lately but those with enough experience really aren’t doing themselves or racing a favour with some of their explanations for their transgressions.

To some degree I understand how it can get away from you.

I know when I was riding a couple of times I would see jockeys going over the limit and then when I came back into the jockey’s room I would say to them that I thought they could be in a bit of trouble with the whip rule and they would say … ahh, I didn’t even bloody think about that.

It’s a mindset and a thought process that you have got to accommodate. I guess every jockey is different in the way they go about that.


The way the stewards handle the whip rule obviously has an impact on that mindset.

There is nothing worse than being beaten by somebody who has broken the rule when you have stayed in the guidelines. You would have to say that is unfair … and racing, with all of the money involved, needs a level playing ground.

We have had enough examples already to surmise that the stewards have basically made it clear they are not going to change the placings or disqualify horses when a jockey has breached the whip rule … which can also arguably be taken as saying that, result-wise, the rule doesn’t matter as long as you are willing to cop a bit of a suspension or a fine.

The bottom line to me out of all of this is that there has to be some sort of consequences result-wise if this matter is ever to be reined in with all jockeys coming to the party.


My thought on this … and I’m not saying I’m right or wrong, I am merely looking for a solution … is a way to do it would be to have a designated margin per strike that you are over the limit.

The penalised margin may be a head, a quarter of a length, a length depending on how badly the jockey has breached the rule … whatever is decided … and it would be written into the racing rules and then it will then become a rule that can be acted on.

Now I know there is a strong and largely valid argument that you cannot quantity the effect of a whip strike on a horse because all horses react differently, but that is not what this is about. In fact, it has nothing to do with that at all.

This is about to right to penalise jockeys who breach the whip rule and amend their horse’s position for overuse of the whip, whether their horse has gained an unfair advantage or not, in a manner which, I am sure, will impact on their future whip use and their regard for the whip rule.

I also know there is an argument out there which says you can’t blame the owner or the trainer for a jockey’s breach of the whip rule … but at the end of the day the jockey is working for the owner and trainer on each particular horse. They always talk about it being a team effort when they are winning. They therefore should stand or fall as a team.

As I said, I don’t know if that is the best way to combat breaches of the rule, but my feeling is that something has to be done to preserve and protect the rights of those who play by the rules.

If you are over with the whip, you are over. That’s it.

End of argument!


And let’s not lose sight of what racing authorities are meant to be doing.

Racing, first and foremost, has to look after racing’s interests.

Why are we always trying to please other people who have no real knowledge of or any genuine interest in racing? Personally. I’m sick of trying to please people who always going to want more and who will never be satisfied.

Of course, we should take into account constructive, good intentioned criticism but, at the end of the day, a line has got to be drawn.

We have still got a business to run and an obligation to racing stakeholders … from owners to punters to trainers, to the thousands of employees in the industry … and we have to keep trying to get the best results for racing for racing’s sake … and not anybody elses!

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Damian Browne
Damian Browne
Queensland's Own www.horseracingonly.com.au Queensland's Best