What Is A "Jigger" And Why Are They So Cruel?
Wednesday's allegations that tasers or "jiggers" were found in the stables of Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Darren Weir are not a good look for the industry.
In essence, it's a small electronic device just like a taser which administers an electric shock to a horse. The theory is that it makes it run faster, and while it doesn't work with every horse, it does work with most.
The rules of racing expressly forbid the use of such devices. However, there are always those who flaunt rules.
In 2007, trainer Paul Preusker and jockey Holly McKechnie were disqualified for four and three years respectively for using a jigger on horses during trackwork. The judge of the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board, who dished out the penalties, called their actions "abhorrent".
Jockeys obviously can't carry a jigger during a race, as it would be detected. However, if a jigger is used regularly in trackwork, there are ways that a jockey can make the horse respond the same way under race conditions.
One is to use a nail, which gives the horse a moment of searing pain which makes it think it is about to be shocked again. The nail can then be discreetly disposed of by the jockey.
It is unknown for what purposes the jiggers found in the Weir stable were used.
Weir and two other men were interviewed by police on Wednesday and released without charge, pending further investigations.
The rules of Racing Victoria state:
"It is an offence to deliver an electric shock to a person or animal [and] it shall be deemed to be capable of affecting the performance of a horse in a race or training gallop."
After Victoria Police, in conjunction with Racing Victoria stewards, conducted raids on Weir's stables in Ballarat and Warrnambool, as well as several other premises today, Assistant Police Commissioner Neil Paterson said:
"We have initially located a number of items which police have seized, including what we believe to be an unregistered firearm, three conducted energy devices, commonly called tasers, or in the racing industry referred to as jiggers.
"And at another property, we also seized a fourth conducted energy device, and a small amount of what we believe to be cocaine," he continued.
Police indicated that the investigations are ongoing and that they are looking into whether any offences have been committed.
"These offences relate to offences of obtaining financial advantage by deception, engaging in conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome, and the use of corrupt conduct information for betting purposes, and attempting to commit an indictable offence, and also charges that relate to animal cruelty."
The last two words will not please animal lovers.
Meanwhile, Darren Weir's friend and Finance & Operations Manager Mick Leonard sent an email to owners of horses trained by Weir after yesterday's raids.
"As you are most likely aware, Darren Weir Racing is the subject of an external review,” Leonard wrote.
"At this time the investigation is ongoing. Our main aim is to ensure our owners are not disadvantaged by this process in any way, and accordingly, it is business as usual in regards to the training and care of your horses...
"Thank you for your ongoing support, consideration and loyalty to Darren Weir Racing," Leonard added.