Horse Racing with Jason Hall

THE Moorcroft Racehorse Welfare Centre is holding its’ successful annual fund-raising raceday at Plumpton Racecourse this coming Monday afternoon. The Welfare Centre is nestled in the heart of the Sussex countryside and is one of the three British Horseracing Authorities-accredited racehorse rehabilitation centres in the UK.

The Moorcroft is highly valued by many of the prominent figures in racing. One of the leading owners in National Hunt racing is Andy Stewart.

Over a number of years, he has proved a great supporter of the sport and his efforts in raising funds and sponsorship to retrain racehorses after their career on the track has finished are typified by his great support of this day.

As well as sponsoring the final race on the card, Andy uses the Shetland Pony Champion Hurdle that is run prior to the first race as another angle through which to increase his donations to the Moorcroft.

Adrian Pratt, Chairman of the Raceday Commitee, said: “The Moorcroft Raceday at Plumpton has already raised over £400,000 since its inception and the annual raceday is its most successful fundraising event, contributing 20 per cent towards the annual running costs of the centre.

“The money is vital to enable us to continue retraining racehorses for a life after racing, whether as a recreational or companion horse.”

As well as Andy, there will be a number of other racing personalities who will attend the Marquee Lunch and Auction and many will be contributing items or bidding on racing memorabilia and other lots from which the Moorcroft will ultimately benefit.

Earlier this week I spoke to Lisa Muschamp who is responsible for marketing at the racecourse. She said: “All the tables for the Marquee Lunch and Auction have now sold out. Whilst the support for this meeting from the racing community is always strong, all the other hospitality facilities we offer across the course have also sold out just as they did for our first meeting of the season in September.”

Whilst the Moorcroft charity event is a great example of the good work that racing does, the new whip rules for jockeys that has initiated such debate this week is in direct contrast.

The actions of racing’s authorities in this instance are made in response to a perception from groups outside of the sport that the care and well being of racehorses is below a level that they deem to be acceptable. By placing a fixed number on the amount of times a horse can be struck by the whip in the course of a race, the authorities appear to believe they have satisfied the demands of these protestors.

That reaction in itself is naive as it suggests they believe that those opposed to racing will now never come back and demand yet more restrictions on the sport, a view which is clearly contradicted by the previous history of these confrontations.

The use of the whip by professional horsemen is as a form of control and not of abuse.

It has been the case for many years now that those who did transcend the rules were punished accordingly and in the few severe cases I have seen over many years, those measures have been appropriately tough and imposed not purely by suspension but indirectly by the owners and trainers who are subsequently far less inclined to use jockeys who have continually or severely broken the whip rules in place.

Racings authorities have missed an opportunity to unify and support the professional people within the game and focus on at least attempting to improve the quality of understanding of those on the outside looking in, whose knowledge is understandably less informed than people who have spent their lives working directly with horses.