Toe Grab Ban Approved by Ky. Commission

Toe Grab Ban Approved by Ky. Commission

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission July 14 unanimously approved regulations that would prohibit the use of horseshoes with toe grabs on front feet of horses racing in the state.

The regulation, which still must go through a public comment period and be approved by an interim legislative committee, was recommended by the commission’s health and safety committee, chaired by Betsy Lavin. It bans toe grabs in excess of two millimeters, which is the standard recommended by Safety Committee of The Jockey Club.

During discussion of the dangers posed by toe grabs, which effectively improve traction and keep horses’ hooves from sliding when they contact the racing surface, retired jockey Chris McCarron noted that the shoes “are the single biggest reason why horses fall when they clip heels.”

Dr. Foster Northrop, a member of the commission and an equine veterinarian, said toe grabs lead to cannon bone injuries. Northrup said he has, “tried to get my clients to quit using them for years.”

While the regulations require several regulatory approvals before going into effect, commission executive director Lisa Underwood said some tracks are already imposing the toe grab limitations for horses racing at their facilities.

Also approved to go through the public comment and legislative approval process were sweeping changes in Thoroughbred and Standardbred regulations, including an increase in licensing fees. The fees, which Underwood said had not been raised since 2002, would go from $100 to $150 annually for Thoroughbred owners, trainers, assistant trainers, exercise riders, and veterinarians. The license fee would be $125 for Standardbred drivers, trainers, trainer/drivers, and assistants.

In other action, the commission:
--Heard an update on initial introduction of an alternative riding crop (or whip) at some tracks within the state. The crops, which are padded and have less potential to cause marks or bruises on horses, were used at Ellis Park during that track’s opening weekend of July 11-13. Jeff Johnston, a retired jockey who is a Midwest representative of The Jockeys’ Guild, told the commission he was pleasantly surprised at how receptive the riders were to the new equipment.
--Approved an exhibition race during the Turfway Park fall meet that would consist of seven riders from the North American Racing Academy.
--Approved a Quarter Horse race at Turfway Park, which would be the first Quarter Horse race contested over an artificial racing surface.
--Approved the addition of two steeplechase races at Kentucky Downs.

Also during the meeting, chief steward John Veitch reported that trainer Steve Asmussen was fined $250 by Churchill Downs stewards for using abusive language toward an official. Veitch said Asmussen used profanity when talking to an assistant starter in connection with the trainer’s successful effort to get a starter of his preference to load Pyro into the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

The commission also met in closed executive session for about 90 minutes to discuss ongoing litigation, but no official action was taken  and no one could say what the meeting concerned.

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