Amidst all the kerfuffle about animal fatalities and the safety of the Grand National course it was easy to overlook the call from the RSPCA for Daryl Jacob and Neptune Collonges to be stripped of their success.
The animal welfare organisation made their call for the result of the Grand National to be reversed after video evidence showed Jacob used his whip 11 times after the final fence. This was in sharp contrast to Richie McLernon, on board second placed Sunnyhill Boy, who used his whip just twice on the long run in at Aintree.
Chief executive of the RSPCA Gavin Grant was in inflammatory mood, saying, “It would appear the whip was overused in the final stages of the race. If that is the case it is totally unacceptable and given the narrow margin of the win I believe the result should be reversed.”
The Professional Jockeys’ Association was forthright in its support for the ride Jacob gave the winner, and was also quick to point out that the stewards at Aintree had looked closely at the finish of the race. Chief executive Paul Struthers said, “Daryl put down his whip about 50 yards from the line and just pushed his horse past Sunnyhill Boy in the last strides and won on the nod. The stewards asked him about his ride, but they took into account as the rules say they should the distance over which it was used, the force with which it was used and whether the horse was responding. The first three times he used it was in the backhand position and they were just taps to get the horse going. After that he used it in the forehand position but not with any force, and Daryl quite clearly took a conscious decision not to use it again in the final 50 yards when the race was far from won. It was anything but a win at all costs ride.”
Struthers was also critical of the general tone of comments from RSPCA spokespeople, with the exception of their equine consultant David Muir, the man who it is often overlooked is the person who designed the shock absorbing whip used throughout racing. Struthers said the language used was unfairly critical of jockeys and “has completely failed to acknowledge a virtual overnight change in jockeys’ behaviour with the whip and the sense of responsibility they are showing.”
Certainly whip use was far less of an issue in the minds of the public this year according to the British Horseracing Authority. Spokesman Robin Mounsey said only a few of the complaints they had received after this year’s race were about Jacob’s ride, compared to last year, when most of the 100 or so complaints related to Jason Maguire’s use of the whip on winner Ballabriggs.