After noticing an unusually high number of horses stumbling at the start during the first month of the Delaware Park meet, the Delaware Racing Commission adopted an emergency regulation that allows toe grabs with a height of up to four millimeters to be permitted for racing on dirt.
The track had implemented a recommendation from The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Safety Committee at the start of its meet April 25 that called for an immediate ban on toe grabs other than two-millimeter wear plates, jar caulks, stickers, or any other traction devices worn on the shoes of Thoroughbred during racing or training.
The New York Racing Association, Churchill Downs Inc., and all Kentucky tracks had implemented the recommendation. Delaware Park is the first facility to adopt an emergency exception to the rule.
DTRC executive director John Wayne said it was after a week of racing that he first noticed a lot of notations in the stewards’ reports in which horses were stumbling at the start.
“We compiled a list, which goes from May 2 to June 24, and we had 29 horses stumble at the start for those days of racing,” Wayne said. “One of the horses had fallen, and one of the jockeys actually got tossed off a horse. The commission was concerned about the possibility that a rider could be injured.
"We had a lot of input from the Jockey’s Guild about the toe grabs, and they were applauding the fact the commission was considering removing the two-millimeter restriction and making it four millimeters like The Jockey Club had originally proposed.”
Wayne said the high number of stumbling incidents was unusual considering Delaware Park usually goes a whole season with very few. Based on the data compiled by the stewards and the positive jockey input, the commission decided it was enough information to enact the emergency regulation at its June 23 meeting.
The DTRC immediately notified the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and The Jockey Club about the change.
The regulation, which was signed by DTRC chairman Bernard Daney, states that “having determined that an imminent peril to the public health, safety, or welfare exists…notwithstanding any house rule of a commission licensee to the contrary, toe grabs up to a height of no greater than four millimeters shall be permitted for racing on dirt.”
The emergency is effective for 120 days unless terminated by the commission. The regulation states it “in no way affects the two-millimeter limit house rule pertaining to graded stakes events.”
In order to maintain grades for stakes, racetracks had to adopt the toe-grab limit under a directive from the American Graded Stakes Committee.
Wayne said since the implementation of the rule, there have been two stumbling incidents, and those horses may have still been wearing the two-millimeter toe grabs.
“The difference is like night and day,” he said. “The numbers fell off following the implementation of the emergency rule. Keep in mind that some horsemen may still be using the two-millimeter toe grabs even though the rule went public virtually on June 24.”