As the spring carnival prepares to heat up, Australia’s controversial whip rules have received a high-profile tick of approval from the legendary jockey known as “The Enforcer”.
But Hall Of Fame jockey and retired great Mick Dittman, who rode 88 Group I winners including the 1982 Melbourne Cup on Gurner’s Lane, has rejected calls from prominent owner Lloyd Williams to outlaw whips altogether.
Dittman, known as The Enforcer for his strong vigour and his ability to virtually “lift” a horse over the line in tight finishes, has backed the current whip policy which allows only a certain amount of strikes prior to the 100m and in the totality of a race.
However he also believes there are some instances where stewards must adopt a common sense approach rather than following the whip rules to the absolute letter of the law.
“These whip rules had to come in, you just can’t have jockeys in this day and age just wailing away with the whips while the public is watching,” Dittman told Racenet.
“When you are going nose and nose, the jockey who puts the whip away first might be the one who loses”
“They had to make a general rule because they get complaints from the public about animal cruelty as far as the whips are concerned.
“I think they have got to have a rule and I think the rule they have got at the moment is pretty good.
“When I was riding there was no set rule on how many times you could whip them but these days you have to be mindful of that and I think that is fair enough.
“But I do think that in the situation where you are in a two-horse race in the last furlong and it’s nose and nose to the wire, I think there has got to be a little bit of discretion there from stewards.
“When you are going nose and nose, the jockey who puts the whip away first might be the one who loses.
“I am not saying they shouldn’t enforce whip rules, but maybe just have a bit of common sense sometimes in how they enforce them and the penalties they hand out.”
Mick Dittman and Tommy Smith holding the 1986 Golden Slipper trophy won by Bounding Away.Source:News Limited
There has been a crackdown on overuse of the whip in recent times with harsher penalty templates introduced.
But it has remained a vexed issue with jockeys repeatedly being suspended and yet stewards last month dismissing a whip protest in Adelaide despite the winning rider clearly breaching whip rules.
The whip issue also flared in last year’s Melbourne Cup with Michael Walker forced to shut down social media after copping a barrage of abuse and threats following his admission the “whip rules went out the window” when he rode runner-up Prince Of Arran.
Walker was suspended for seven meetings and fined $10,000.
Dittman, who also won three Golden Slippers and two Cox Plates during a golden career, is now living on the Gold Coast and managing the interests of a racehorse owner in Singapore.
He feels that while racing must learn to live with current whip rules it would be folly to ban whips altogether.
“It would be impossible to be riding without a whip because there would be a lot of horses that just don‘t go unless you urge them,” Dittman says.
“I think if you didn’t have the whip you would get plenty of horses the last bit when they started to get a bit tired they wouldn’t put their best foot forward.”
1982 Melbourne Cup winner Gurner’s Lane ridden by Mick Dittman returns to scaleSource:Supplied
Originally published as‘The Enforcer’ backs Australia’s controversial whip rules
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