By T. D. Thornton
After nearly two years of negotiations and rewrites, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) on Tuesday unanimously advanced a more humane whipping rule that The Jockeys' Guild is endorsing as a possible model regulation for all North American jurisdictions to follow.
The chief change sets a limit of six overhand hits per race with no more than two strikes in succession to give the horse a chance to respond.
Jennifer Wolsing, the general counsel for the KHRC, explained prior to the vote that if necessary, jockeys may also use the whip “in a backhanded or underhanded fashion from the three-eighths pole to the finish line, which does not count [against] the use of the crop six times in the overhand fashion.”
Tapping the horse on its shoulder with the whip in the down position (and with both hands holding the reins and touching the horse's neck) will also be permitted. Showing or waving the whip without contact to the horse is also allowable.
The wrist holding the whip, however, can never go “above helmet height” prior to a strike, Wolsing added.
Violators can be punished with either a $500 minimum fine or a three-day minimum suspension. If the stewards believe that the violation is egregious or intentional, they can impose both a fine and suspension.
The KHRC's Rules Committee had voted in this latest round of proposed changes on May 3 based on input from Guild members and executives.
“We feel that this rule is a fair compromise, and is in the best interest of our industry,” Terence Meyocks, the president and chief executive officer of the Guild, said after the vote.
Meyocks added that Kentucky's new rule could be the basis for a model whip rule that gets implemented throughout North America instead of relying on the current patchwork of differing jurisdictional standards.
Although no timetable for implementation was discussed during Tuesday's meeting, KHRC executive director Marc Guilfoil told TDN last month when the regulation advanced out of the rules committee that after passage by the full KHRC board, the measure next has to be approved by the state legislature, whose leaders have indicated support for the version the commission passed on Tuesday. Guilfoil had estimated that legislative process could take up to seven or eight months.