RACING legend John Francome insists banning the use of the whip will not only improve the sport’s image, but also put more emphasis on jockeys’ abilities in close finishes.

Under rules introduced by the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) in 2011, jockeys in National Hunt races are allowed to strike their horse eight times over the length of a race – a maximum of five of those hits are permitted after the final obstacle.

But Swindon-born former champion jockey Francome – who rode 1,138 winners during his glittering career which started as a teenager – believes banning the option for jockeys to hit horses can help take the sport forward into the 21st century.

He told the Racing Post: “It’s 10 times easier to hit a horse than it is to push one.

“The better jockeys – the ones who know how fast they’re going in a race and the ones who can pick a horse up and push it without having to hit it three times – will be the ones who come to the top of the pile.

“It will put emphasis on the jockeys.

“You’ve definitely got to carry a whip (when racing), but I’m completely against hitting horses when they’re racing.

“There’s a knack to getting the best out of a horse, like humans, and it’s without using a big stick.”

The BHA currently issue short-term bans for jockeys that use the whip more than eight times during a race – or more than five times after the final obstacle.

But Francome, who now lives in Lambourn, said the sport’s regulatory authority cannot allow races to be won by breaking laws – suggesting that reversing results is the only way he can take the whip restriction rule seriously while the use of the whip is permitted.

He also highlighted that claims within the sport that the recently introduced foam-padded whip causes a horse no pain only adds to his argument that the whip should not be a part of the sport moving forward.

Francome said a one-month trial where the use of the whip is not permitted would be the best solution for the sport, which last month announced the lowest average crowds of the century were recorded in 2018.

Francome added: “Let’s have a month’s trial.

“If it doesn’t work and it all kicks off, then okay, but I really don’t think that will be the case.

“If this new whip doesn’t hurt the horses, then why use it?

“Do away with it completely and jockeys will be able to keep horses straighter and it will be so much easier to govern and more enjoyable to watch.

“If I’m a young person coming to watch racing, I’d be thinking: ‘What is going on here?’

“This horse is doing its best and someone is hitting it.

“And then the jockey on the winner hit his horse more times than the jockey on the horse I backed.

“It’s crazy and the fact that it goes on is beyond me, yet it’s something we can sort out in an afternoon.

“They’ll never sort it (the whip rule) because they haven’t the nous to stand up and say it’s not right and we’re stopping it now.”