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September 11, 2009

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Australian jockeys strike over whip rules

AUSTRALIAN jockeys staged a mass nationwide walkout yesterday in protest at the introduction of new rules restricting the use of whips.

Race meetings in four different states were cancelled when leading jockeys refused to continue riding after the Australian Racing Board rejected their plea to amend the new laws.

The ARB introduced rules at the start of last month implementing the use of padded whips and restricting the number of times jockeys can hit a horse in the last 200 meters of a race.

But the decision over the number of times jockeys can hit their horses has been widely criticized by sections of the racing community who believe the rules prevent horses from racing on their merits and the subsequent penalties and suspensions handed down to jockeys were unfair.

Jockeys provided a submission asking to be allowed to use their own discretion over the last 100 meters of a race as long as they were in contention, but their request was rejected, prompting the immediate strike action.

"With its decision today to ignore the call of all stakeholders to make a minor variation to the rules relating to the whip, the ARB has succeeded in unleashing a great bitterness and division between stakeholders and administrators," the Australian Jockeys' Association said. "It shows the ARB is completely out of touch with its constituents."

Jockey Glen Boss, who has ridden the winner of the Melbourne Cup on three occasions, said riders had been given no alternative other than to take matters into their own hands.

"We certainly didn't want it to come to this but as a jockeys' association we have got to show our strength," Boss told Australia's TVN racing network.


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