While I am not sure what Jones means by 'spectacle', I don't think anyone can argue that the use of a whip adds to the color of the sport, something which many people will think is a wonderful thing. Rennell realizes harness racing needs to get rid of the whip because it is a magnet for animal-rights activists, something which will hurt the sport in New Zealand and elsewhere. To the AR people and the general public, telling them you are limiting the number of times a driver may use the whip is not going to help; one strike will be too many. The HRNZ CEO realizes it is best to be ahead of the problem rather than have the problem control the solution.
Here in the States, while the focus of animal rights activists is first on greyhound racing, thoroughbred and quarter horse racing, then harness racing, make no mistake the sport sooner or later will be in the bulls-eye of AR activists. Whether or not they can directly eliminate the whip is unknown, but rest assured they will be able to launch a campaign which will make racing an outlaw, making it easier for legislatures to decouple or redirect funds going to the sport.
Now I am not suggesting we throw the whips out tomorrow, but there is no reason why a transition to whipless racing can't take place. We can start one year eliminating the whip in two year old races, the following year two and three year old races, then all races. For those who feel the whip is a safety issue, we can even let drivers carry the whip for use in emergency situations and then evaluate over a period of time whether the safety issue is real or perceived.
Then, harness racing will be a spectacle, one we can be proud of.
For Throw Back Thursday, we go to 1997 where we see the Harley Davidson Trot which was won by Australian invader Knight Pistol.
Oh, by the way, if you looked at the race closer, you will notice the lack of a whip in each driver's hand. While one race doesn't prove anything, Norway has been racing without whips for years and obviously it works. If it can work in Norway, it can work in New Zealand and it can work in North America. Granted, it will take bettors some getting used to, before they become comfortable with it. Being most tracks have a minuscule handles anyway, relying on slots to fund purses, wouldn't it be a good time to make a transition when any temporary drop-off in handle can be managed without seriously hurting purses?
Like many things in racing, it isn't a question of 'can we or can't we', it's a question of the will to make a change. Change will come. The question is one can lead or one can be dragged kicking and screaming.
For those purists who love the sport of harness racing for the sport itself, here is a segment called "The Bush Tracks" which was produced by Mississippi Public Television back in 2014. Enjoy.