By T. D. Thornton
Starting at next year's Monmouth Park meet, whipping a Thoroughbred will not be allowed by any New Jersey jockey or exercise rider except for the express purpose of ensuring the immediate safety of the horse or rider.
Spanning three new rules covering prohibition, allowable usage for safety, and whip construction, the trio of regulations were voted in 4-0 by the New Jersey Racing Commission (NJRC) at its Sept. 16 meeting, making the state the first in the nation to ban whipping beyond protection in an emergency situation.
If a jockey or exercise rider uses the riding crop in a manner contrary to the new rules, he or she will be subject to a fine, suspension, or forfeiture of the jockey's share of the purse “if, in the opinion of the stewards, the unauthorized use of the whip caused the horse to achieve a better placing,” the new rules state.
Judith Nason, the NJRC's executive director, said the new regulations could be approved by the state office of administrative law in time to go into effect at the tail end of this autumn's Meadowlands-at-Monmouth meet.
But after fielding a question about timing from Dennis Drazin, the chairman and chief executive of Darby Development LLC, which operates Monmouth, Nason said the commission is open to waiting until 2021 to begin enforcement in Thoroughbred races (the rule also covers Standardbred racing).
“That would give us a chance to meet with the jockeys and educate the jockeys regarding the new rule,” Nason said.
If a rider does use the whip on a horse, the rules state that the strike shall not be “in a manner that causes any visible sign, mark, welt, or break in the skin of the horse, or that is otherwise excessive.”
The rules continue: “If the riding crop is used, under the supervision of the stewards, there shall be a visual inspection of each horse following each race for evidence of excessive or brutal use of the riding crop.”
The whips must be “soft-padded [and] have a shaft and a soft tube” that does not exceed eight ounces in weight or 30 inches in length, with a minimum shaft diameter of three-eighths of one inch.
“The shaft, beyond the grip, must be smooth, with no protrusions or raised surface, and covered by shock absorbing material that gives a compression factor of at least one millimeter throughout its circumference,” the regulations state.