Punch: Jumps racing knockers are misinformed
“Barbaric”, “cruel” and “blood sport”. Three of the typically sensationalist slogans that anti-jumps racing protest groups are likely to bandy about over the next few days of Warrnambool’s May Racing Carnival.
Why? Because Warrnambool’s famous annual event features jumps racing.
Jumps racing’s reputation has taken a pounding in recent years. Every incident represents an easy target for protest groups and a similarly easy headline for the mainstream media.
But does jumps’ racing deserve its bad reputation? Part of the problem with jumps racing is that the issue has become shrouded in emotion rather than facts.
Take for example the recent claims made on radio after Casa Boy was regrettably euthanased by Elio Celotto, a spokesperson for protest group the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses.
Mr Celotto claimed that trainers and owners of jumpers were ‘in it to make a quick buck’.
For anyone who knows anything about racing, this is laughable. The overwhelming majority of owners in jumps racing make a significant loss financially and race their horses purely out of a love for the sport and animal. In most cases the prize money in jumps racing isn’t enough to cover the cost of training, let alone make a profit as suggested.
It is also no secret that the majority of jumpers are unwanted flat gallopers that are either too old or too slow to race over the shorter flat races. Many of these horses were destined for the knackery.
Thanks to their owners, many of these horses will be rewarded for their efforts over the jumps with a well deserved retirement paddock – a point the media and protestors never fail to overlook.
Significantly, just to survive each year, steeple chase racing must meet strict key performance indicators (KPIs) set down by Racing Victoria. It cannot fall above a rate of 0.65 per cent fatalities to starters, which in itself highlights the significant improvement made in safety in the past two seasons since the 2009 jumps racing review.
Since the decision at the beginning of the 2010 season to return to the use of a larger, more solid jump, there have only been three jumps related deaths.
While three deaths are regrettable and an ideal number would be zero, it is a significant improvement on the number of deaths that occurred in previous seasons when a smaller style of jump was used.
Ironically, the smaller style of jump was only introduced to appease animal welfare groups. These smaller ‘brush’ hurdles were introduced without the consultation of jumps trainers or jockeys and meant that horses didn’t slow down at the obstacles. As a result, the races were run at a significantly quicker speed, with disastrous consequences.
As long as the sport continues to meet the strict KPIs, Racing Victoria administrators owe it to the participants whose livelihoods depend on jumps racing to not bow to the vocal and pushy minority groups.
While a balanced and reasonable discussion of jumps racing is probably a little too much to expect, the next time you read about the ‘evils’ of jump racing, just remember that you might not be getting all the facts.
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