The Ontario driver recently retired from driving after a 35-year career in which he won over 4,200 races and more than $20 million. Now he has time to further develop a kinder, gentler whip.
by Dave Briggs
Now that Ontario’s Gord Brown has retired from driving after a successful 35-year career, the 55-year-old has the time to focus on developing a prototype for a kinder, softer driving whip. The timing couldn’t be better with news last week that Australia plans to ban whips from racing later in 2017 which has spurred a renewed focus on whipping as an animal rights issue.
“If you give me one good reason why it’s okay for a driver to hit a horse with a hard piece of fiberglass, I’ll give you 100 reasons why it’s not,” said Brown who won over 4,200 races and more than $20 million in nearly 23,500 career starts. “It’s just not right. It’s never sat well with me and now that I have time on my hands I’d like to do something about it.
Brown said he’s working on a prototype with a friend. The driver previously invented the Clear Vision Mud Sheet that can be attached to a sulky during muddy racing conditions and stops mud from flying into drivers’ faces.
As for the better whip, Brown said, “It’s basically a firm piece of foam. When it’s finished it will look, basically, like a whip. You could stand there and hit yourself all day with it and it won’t hurt.”
Brown, the son of late trainer Stan Brown, said his father always said, “‘A horse will go faster from noise, not from pain.’ That’s why as drivers we yell at horses, why we hit the wheel disc. They don’t go faster from pain.”
Yet, the driver believes Australia’s outright ban of whips is going too far.
“Drivers still have to have something in their hand. It’s their tool and if a horse makes a break and you try to get one out of the way, you can give them a couple of swats and try to get them out of the way,” he said.
He acknowledges it is important to get out in front of inevitable animal rights protests.
“I’ve talked to John Campbell many times about it and he’s 100 per cent right. He says, ‘We’ve got to do something before somebody steps in,’” Brown said. “I’ve talked to people and I have friends that will never, ever, go to the races because of that. I tried to B.S. them along to say that we hit the shaft, but it’s just not right. You don’t hit your dog, you don’t hit your cat. These are the animals that I was making my living on. It’s sad.”