Take the whip away and vanquish a symbol of cruelty. This wouldn't merely be a sop to PETA—it's a move industry types from legendary jockey Jerry Bailey to race caller Trevor Denman support if it can help restore credibility to every owner and trainer who proclaims that the horse's health is a priority.
"I keep getting told the jockey needs the whip for control," says Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, an equine orthopedic researcher at Colorado State. "I think we've got reins to do that."
Jones counters with the New Coke approach: "If they want to go to a lighter whip, where the horse would still hear the popping sound, I'd be great with that." But lighter is still visible. It's public perception that empowers the PETA point of view and leaves a soft-spoken jockey like Saez vilified for using the crude tool of his trade.
"Perception?" Jones said with a smile, standing next to a truck bearing a green Eight Belles bumper sticker. "I know it's about perception. But I also know some people who say they use whips in the bedroom. Now to me that wouldn't be good. But hey, it's what they like."
Eight Belles didn't have a choice.
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