California’s horse-racing regulators approved new rules on jockeys whipping horses during races at their monthly meeting Thursday, but delayed the results of their investigation into the 37 horse deaths at Santa Anita last season.
Under the tentative rule, a riding crop cannot be used more than two times in succession and six times during the entirety of a race. Use of the crop would also be limited to an underhanded position no higher than a rider’s shoulder.
The whip rules aren’t final, and will undergo a 45-day review period for public comment before possible adoption.
“We just passed the most restrictive whip rule in North America and maybe in the world,” said Greg Ferraro, chairman of the California Horse Racing Board. “I realize at this time no one is happy, including me. But we’ve gotten to the point where we had to move. Somebody has to be first. We’d like to see a national rule and we’d certainly support it.”
Currently, the state allows a jockey three strikes with a crop before giving the horse time to respond, but there is no limit on the total number of strokes allowed during a race.
Jockeys who violate the rule will be subject to a fine of “up to” $1,000 and a three-day suspension.
The Jockeys’ Guild had pushed for a less restrictive rule, allowing for seven uses of the crop but in the forehand up position.
“We think our proposal is fair,” Jockey’s Guild CEO Terry Meyocks said, according to Horse Racing Nation. “I also think it’s very important that we have one rule in the United States and possibly for North America.”
Some people think the new rule proposal didn’t go nearly far enough.
“Beating horses to make them run faster should never be allowed, under any circumstances,” said Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “Whipping a horse two times in succession instead of three is still beating a horse. Striking a horse with the whip in the downward position is still beating a horse. The California racing industry is arguing to be allowed to abuse horses, and the public and state legislators must not stand for it. PETA certainly won’t.”
Also at Thursday’s meeting, CHRB Executive Director Rick Baedeker said the results of the board’s investigation into the rash of racehorse deaths at Santa Anita won’t be ready until the next CHRB meeting, scheduled for mid-January at Santa Anita.
Santa Anita — and the sport in general — has been under heavy scrutiny since the deaths at the Arcadia track started garnering more media attention in 2019 than in seasons past. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is also conducting a criminal investigation into the deaths.
The board also voted to prohibit the administration of bisphosphonates at any facility regulated by the CHRB and approved an amendment that would require the veterinary records of a claimed horse to be transferred to the new attending veterinarian.