11/19/2014 5:21PM

California restricts whip use by jockeys


The California Horse Racing Board passed a rule on Wednesday limiting jockeys to three consecutive strikes with a whip before they must pause to allow a horse to respond.

The rule is expected to take effect in coming weeks, and will be in place for both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse races. In recent months, racing board officials held meetings with owners and trainers and the Jockey’s Guild to discuss the issue.

A jockey found in violation would face sanction, most likely a fine.

“This is an important issue,” racing board chairman Chuck Winner said. “We are making every effort, working with the industry, to try to do what we can to protect the integrity of this sport and the horses and the riders. It’s a long time coming, and it’s a big step in my view.”

Darrell Haire of the Jockeys’ Guild said he has met with Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred riders in recent weeks and months to discuss the new rule.

“We feel comfortable with what we’ve come up with,” he told the board. “It’s a change and the riders have adapted. It’s all really about perception. It looks bad when a rider keeps after the horse. It doesn’t look good.”

Santa Anita considered adopting a similar rule for its autumn meeting from late September to early November, but delayed implementation until the racing board considered a statewide rule.

In other developments at Wednesday’s meeting, the racing board announced plans to review rules used for deciding what constitutes interference and merits a disqualification following the controversial running of the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 1.

In the BC Classic, Santa Anita stewards conducted an inquiry into whether race winner Bayern should have been disqualified for interfering with favored Shared Belief shortly after the start. The stewards ruled that the incident happened early enough in the race over 1 1/4 miles that it did not cost Shared Belief an opportunity for a better placing.

The decision was the subject of widespread debate.

“We looked at the rules in every other jurisdiction to see where our rules differed from theirs,” Winner said. “There are no jurisdictions where a foul is a foul. We look at this as if there are judgment calls that have to be made.

“There were a number of people who were not in accord with the decision,” Winner said. “No matter what decision they made, they would have been wrong. They made the decision based on the rules. It’s a tough job. If there is a problem, the problem is with the rule.”

During the three-hour meeting held at Del Mar, the racing board approved two-year licenses for the account wagering providers Lien Games Racing, TVG, TwinSpires, Watch and Wager, and Xpressbet, contingent on the completion of outstanding documents such as horsemen’s agreements.

Discussion on licenses for account wagering providers lasted nearly two hours after several firms were taken to task for failing to consistently and accurately report handle figures to a California racetrack accounting service. Executives with account wagering firms and the accounting service disputed each other’s levels of cooperation in the reporting and accuracy of data.