09/02/2014 1:49PM

House rule limits whipping at Santa Anita


Jockeys at Santa Anita will be restricted to whipping a horse three times in succession before trying something else to urge the horse, a whip rule mirroring those of Europe and to be instituted at the beginning of the fall meeting starting Sept. 26, according to officials at Santa Anita and the Jockeys’ Guild.

The rule would be a house rule, enacted and enforced by Santa Anita with the cooperation of the state racing board-appointed stewards assigned to that meet. However, the California Horse Racing Board is expected to discuss and potentially adopt the rule statewide in the coming months.

“The Jockeys’ Guild came to us and the California Horse Racing Board and asked about a house rule, for the good of the game,” Tom Ludt, the president at Santa Anita, said Tuesday. “From Santa Anita’s perspective, we said we’d be willing to support it. We think it’s a wonderful thing. It’s good for the horse, and it’s good for public perception.”

Ludt acknowledged that one of the reasons Santa Anita is willing to institute a house rule in advance of a formal racing-board rule is to have it in effect prior to the Breeders’ Cup, which will be held at Santa Anita on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

According to Darrell Haire, a former rider who is the local representative of the Jockeys’ Guild, jockeys would be allowed to hit a horse three times in succession, then would have to wait and see if the horse responds before whipping anew.

“It’s one-two-three, then they’d have to push on them or switch sticks but not keep hitting on them,” Haire said. “It’s all about encouragement. We don’t feel we have a problem. But we don’t think hitting a horse repeatedly, without waiting for a response from the horse, is acceptable.”

Asked if he felt the local riders needed the rule because they were being overly aggressive, Haire said no.

“It’s perception more than anything, but perception is reality,” he said.

Haire said local jockeys had been consulted during the current Del Mar meeting about the upcoming rule. He said there will be film reviews, including encouragement and coaching to adhere to and become accustomed to the pending rule, before it officially goes into effect.

“We’ve been working with the stewards and the racing board for the good of the game,” Haire said. “This is something that’s coming, so we’d rather work with the industry and try to adopt a rule in good faith. We’re trying to do the right thing.”

Local riders five years ago were required to switch to a whip that is said to be kinder to the animals, with a long, padded popper that conveys the urgency of the situation to the horse by the popping sound it makes and as much as being struck on the hindquarters.

According to Haire, the vast majority of the local riders are supporting the new rule. But veteran rider Martin Pedroza called the new rule “ridiculous,” saying each horse is different, and that some horses respond to more aggressive handling.

“I ride for a lot of guys, trainers and owners, who, if they finish third or fourth, it makes a difference,” Pedroza said. “Trifectas, superfectas, I’m riding for the bettors. I want to be able, if I need to, to hit a horse one-two-three-four.”