A Tasmanian harness racing trainer and driver says he has no desire to be involved in an industry that requires drivers to carry whips when racing, and is appealing against a steward’s ruling that he must carry one.
- A Tasmanian harness racing trainer and driver says he was fined $1,000 for not carrying a whip
- He is appealing against the ruling
- Another driver has been charged for excessive whip use at Saturday’s Tasmania Cup final
“I see what horses can do without being whipped and I don’t see that inflicting pain to generate a result is necessary if you train them to the best of their ability,” Kelly told ABC Radio Hobart.
Gavin Kelly became a harness trainer and driver two years ago and said had never used a whip while racing a horse he trained himself — but at a race meet in December he was fined $1,000 for not carrying a whip.
“I was told that it was on safety grounds. I was told I have to carry a whip, I didn’t have to use it … from that point I haven’t raced because the fines would rack up if I continued to not carry a whip.”
Kelly has appealed against the ruling to the Tasmanian Racing Appeal Board.
“The laws of harness racing give stewards wide-ranging powers to make directions of participants, and I failed to follow a direction, so we’re testing whether that direction was lawful,” he said.
He said he would not race if he was forced to carry a whip.
“I’ve been out of the industry since the 29th of December … I don’t train horses currently and I’ve got no desire to train them if I have to go out there and drive and carry a whip.”
Kelly said he expected the legal challenge to the ruling could cost $20,000.
“I didn’t take my stance to try and have the whips banned — as much as that outcome would be pleasing to me, it’s not my endeavour — but I can’t sit by and have directions whereby you’re forced to carry a whip.
“And in my opinion, it sets back whip reform many, many years.”
Whip required to ‘direct horse for safety reasons’, racing body says
Tasmania’s Office of Racing Integrity acting director Tony Latham said he supported the steward’s ruling.
“The reason why the whip is there — and he doesn’t have to hold it, he could have put it in his sulky — just in case something happens to the horse, if it starts moving out or a safety issue, he’s got that whip on hand and he can use it to direct the horse for safety reasons,” Latham told ABC Radio Hobart.
Latham said Harness Racing Australia was continually improving whip use.
“Whether it gets to whip-free I can’t say,” he said.
Racing Minister Jane Howlett told State Parliament she could not comment on Mr Kelly’s case, citing his appeal.
She said Harness Racing Australia had previously said it would ban whips from September 1, 2017.
“HRA has reaffirmed its commitment to the removal of the use of whips in harness racing but the original implementation date was not deemed to be achievable,” she said.
‘If it was some bloke hitting a dog there’d be police and RSPCA there’
RSPCA Tasmania chief executive Jan Davis said she was disappointed with the Office of Racing Integrity’s stance.
“Racing Victoria has already adopted a period of racing without whips, and Racing Australia has also put it on their agenda so they don’t do it,” Ms Davis said.
“Because of the science that we have now that shows that putting whips on horses actually doesn’t improve their performance and may actually harm the way in which they race into their future.
“To be coming and putting fines on someone who’s actually responding to scientific evidence and a discussion that’s happening nationally, I think it’s really disappointing.”
Ms Davis said whip-free racing was inevitable and the RSPCA would support Mr Kelly.
“This is an opportunity, we see, for Mr Kelly to be part of a changing face of racing in Tasmania to reflect the fact that hitting horses is not something that we can tolerate in a modern society,” she said.
An appeal date has not yet been set.
Tasmania Cup driver fined over ‘improper whip use’
As Mr Kelly has gone public with his fight, the Office of Racing Integrity is investigating concerns about the Tasmania Cup final last Saturday night at Elwick.
Driver Rhys Nicholson was fined for improper whip use and improper driving following an initial inquiry into his drive of the cup winner, Bully’s Delight.
“Mr Nicholson was fined $3,000 and suspended from driving in races for six weeks for his actions during the race,” Tony Latham said.
He said the improper driving charge was for “dropping his leg — hocking we call it — hitting the back of the horse’s leg”.
While Nicholson was dealt with on the night, Latham said investigations were continuing.