04/28/2005 12:00AM

Weight rule would keep status quo


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The California Horse Racing Board on Thursday set aside a proposal supported by the Jockeys' Guild that would have drastically raised the minimum weights for jockeys, but endorsed a rule change sponsored by track racing secretaries that would create a less drastic increase in weights.

The rule change, which will undergo a 45-day public comment period, would result in little change to the weight that jockeys in Southern California carry, because it is similar to a program that has been enacted in recent months by the region's racing secretaries.

The rule change calls for jockeys riding in races restricted to 2-, 3-, and 4-year-olds to carry a minimum of 118 pounds, a six-pound increase from the current rule. In races for 3-year-olds and up, the minimum would rise nine pounds, to 112. The minimum weight in handicaps and stakes would be established at 110 pounds. Currently, there is no minimum in that category.

Those weights in non-stakes would not include allowances for apprentice jockeys.

Also Thursday, the CHRB called for an extensive study on jockeys' health issues, urged tracks to employ nutritional counselors for riders, and called for more strict procedures for jockeys weighing in and out before and after races.

The Jockeys' Guild proposal on minimum weights, first discussed by the board last July, would have raised the minimum riding weights in Thoroughbred races to 116 pounds, which would not include approximately 10 pounds of riding equipment. Because of the necessary weight spread needed for competitive racing, horses could have carried as much as 135 to 140 pounds in some races under that proposal.

In choosing not to vote on changes to the weights rule Thursday, several board members cited the need for additional study on jockeys' health issues and a reluctance to change weights without a nationwide policy.

Much of the dialogue on Thursday focused on jockeys' health issues, with testimony from Dr. Dan Benardot, a nutritionist who has worked with the U.S. Olympic gymnastics and marathon teams, and Barry Broad, representing the Jockeys' Guild.

Benardot called for studies on jockeys' body fat levels, saying he found only seven previously published studies worldwide.

The rule change will not reach a vote by the CHRB until this summer, assuming that major changes to the rule are not recommended. Any rule change would not go into effect until approximately the end of the year, after the rules are approved by the CHRB and undergo a government review.

The rule change wouldn't dramatically alter the minimum weights being used in Southern California. At Hollywood Park on Thursday, the weights in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race for fillies and mares ranged from 122 to 124. The assignments did not include about five pounds of safety equipment, primarily a riding vest and helmet.

In 1995, the weights in the same race ranged from 111 to 122.