California Horse Racing Board approves new rule restricting whip use during races

The California Horse Racing Board approved a new rule on Thursday that will limit the amount of times a jockey can strike a horse during a race, according to the Associated Press

Under the new rule, which was approved by a 4-2 vote, jockeys can’t strike a horse more than six times during a race. After that, they can only do so in an underhand position. The rule also allows no more than two strikes in succession using whips that meet new board standards, which are designed to soften the blow, per the report.

Though some were against the change, and wanted to instead wait for a proposed national rule to be implemented, board chairman Gregory Ferraro didn’t see a point in waiting any longer.

“This board has a mandate from the governor to make reforms in racing that contribute to the welfare of the horse,” Ferraro said, via the Associated Press. “We’ve been talking about this crop rule for two years. I think it’s time to stop procrastinating and pass a rule … We’re never going to please the jocks. They don’t want to do anything but keep the status quo. We appreciate their argument. But it’s not going to fly in the face of the public demand that we quit hitting these horses.”

Violators of the new rule will face a maximum fine of $1,000 and a suspension of at least three days, per the report. If it’s determined that the use of the whip was “necessary for the safety of the horse or rider,” however, there will be no penalty.

The Jockeys’ Guild was against the rule change, though pushed back against Ferraro’s statement that they wanted to stick to the status quo. They also believe that the rule change is based more on public perception than anything, which can lead to more accidents on the track.

“We’re concerned that it’s not going to work, and that there’s going to be real safety issues when a jockey is unable to perform his or her job,” said Shane Gusman, the attorney for the Jockeys’ guild, via the Associated Press. “What will happen is you’re going to get an accident, and either a jockey is going to get hurt or a horse is going to go down. You’re going to end racing in California. It’s just going to happen if you go down this road of trying to regulate perception rather than reality.”

The new rule will prohibit jockeys from striking a horse more than six times in a single race, among other things. (Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

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