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by Steve Andersen of

California board unanimously passes restrictive new whip rules -
HORSE RACING, CYPRESS, Calif. – The California Horse Racing Board approved a rule on Thursday that will severely curtail the number of times a jockey can use the whip in a race and restrict use to an underhanded motion.

The rule is months from being implemented. The language will be open for a 45-day public comment period in the near future before the issue appears before the racing board at another monthly meeting in early 2020 for potential changes or ratification.

If there are amendments at an upcoming racing board meeting, implementation of the rule will be further delayed.

The rule, approved by a 5-0 vote, was introduced prior to the meeting on Thursday after the subject was postponed from the racing board’s November meeting.

Jockeys will be able to use the whip twice in succession and no more than six times during a race, always utilizing the whip in an underhanded position “at or below” the shoulder of the jockey and while riders have both hands on reins or touching the neck of the horse.

Riders will not be permitted to strike a horse with an overhand motion that is common in racing.

The proposed rule would prohibit use of the whip in morning exercise, striking a horse on any part of its body other than shoulders or hind quarters, during a post parade or after the finish unless to control a horse, and when a horse is “out of the race” or has obtained its maximum placing.

Jockeys or exercise riders will not face a sanction, if, in the opinion of the stewards, the use of the crop was “necessary for the safety of the horse or rider.”

“We’ve just passed the most restrictive whip rule in North America, maybe in the world,” racing board chairman Greg Ferraro said. “I realize at this time that no one is happy, including me. We’ve got to a point where we had to move. Someone has to be first. We’re first.”

The vote was taken after a 90-minute discussion on the subject in which representatives of the Jockeys’ Guild, racing board officials, and commissioners said action needed to take place at a time when racing faces widespread scrutiny for equine safety issues.

“We have to have a conscience and it is the public that will remind us what this is about,” racing board commissioner Oscar Gonzales said.

The issue of the public perception of whip use was part of the 90-minute discussion.

“I do believe the rules need to be modified,” veteran jockey Aaron Gryder told the racing board.

“I strongly agree riders are using it when we should put it away. We need to work on that in the jockeys’ room as well. When the horse is not responding, that’s enough.”

During discussion prior to passage, the penalty aspect was amended to allow stewards to fine riders up to $1,000 for violations and issue a minimum three-day suspensions, absent mitigating circumstances. The original language said fines would be a minimum of $1,000, which some Jockey’s Guild officials and riders said would be too harsh for jockeys riding at tracks with modest purses.

Ferraro said the issue of what sort of whips can be used will be discussed at the racing board’s January meeting.

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