Reports from NSW Australia suggest whips in harness racing may be on the way out; this coming from the head of Harness Racing NSW, John Dumesny. No doubt these comments come as a result of the state banning greyhound racing starting in 2017.
Dumesny is probably right about whips eventually being banned from the standardbred sport. When a survey shows 54% of the public approved of the elimination of greyhound racing, it is clear the public lacks patience for sports which seemingly involve cruelty to animals. As the leader of harness racing in the province, Dumesny sees the three forms of racing in NSW as having 'social' licenses; needing to respond to the social norms or risk their licenses. NSW may be first but it will be only a matter of time before such a ban spreads to other Australian states.
Perhaps Judy Fasher, of Equestrian Australia says it best, “Any sport that ignores a problem which exists, has a responsibility to clean up that problem or be cleaned up".
So how does this apply to racing in the United States? The scandal which ensnared greyhound racing in Australia thankfully doesn't exist in the States but just the same, the sport is in its death throes, the lack of alternative gaming, decoupling, or outright state bans has the number of tracks on a steady decline. Regardless of the specific reason why, the sport is dying because of the real and perceived humane issues involved in the sport. These same pressures are beginning to be felt in horse racing, with the issue of doping in the forefront, thankfully focused primarily on the thoroughbreds.
As time goes on, horse racing will be more in the cross hairs of those who feel the sport is cruel and the easiest thing to get targeted are whips. For a sport becoming ever more dependent on slot subsidies, it will be up to the sport to clean itself up before the problem gets taken care of by others for the end result may be more draconian.
Good News in New York. Remember those great stakes races at Tioga Downs this year where there were eight horses in the race but due to coupled entries, you would be down to five or fewer betting interests? Well, in bringing parity between the standardbreds and thoroughbreds, the NYSGC has approved a rule change which allows for the uncoupling of horses in stakes races. As a result, when we see eight good horses in a feature race, we should be seeing eight wagering interests. This is the way it ought to be. It's about time.