from the Virginia Thoroughbred Association
The board of directors of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association passed a resolution advocating the review and possible changes regarding jockeys' whips at the upcoming Colonial Downs meet, it was announced June 3.
“In the wake of the Eight Belles tragedy, the Thoroughbred industry has accelerated its efforts to keep racehorses as safe as possible,” VTA president Donna Dennehy said. “We are simply advocating that Virginia’s racing community carefully examine the current policies regarding the use of the whip and consider making changes that will be fair to participants and beneficial to the horses.”
The Virginia Racing Commission has rules limiting the size and shape of the whip, but, like every other jurisdiction in the United States, has implemented no rules regarding use of the whip.
The VTA is advocating that the VRC, Colonial Downs, and the jockeys who will ride there beginning June 9 consider making the use of the ProCush whip mandatory, and that the VRC immediately consider regulations regarding the use of the whip.
The ProCush whip is manufactured in the United Kingdom and has a unique shock-absorbing feature that protects horses from injury or discomfort. The ProCush is the only whip allowed in the UK, and is the only whip allowed in steeplechase races run under the auspices of the National Steeplechase Association.
Rules regarding use of the whip have been in place in Great Britain for some time. The VTA is also encouraging the various stakeholders to consider banning whips altogether either on an experimental or permanent basis.
“Virginia has always been willing to take the lead on potentially controversial issues,” said Glenn Petty, executive director of the VTA. “Our horsemen and racing commission led the way making Virginia the first state to ban steroids, and this is another opportunity for us to take the lead on an important issue.”
“I’ve had plenty of exercise riders and jockeys tell me that a whip has prevented serious injury to their horse or to themselves,” Petty said. “In a high-traffic situation with animals weighing one-half ton, sometimes the rider needs the whip to help move his horse or another horse that may be a safety hazard, so the jockeys need to be part of the decision process. The VTA would like the racing commission, the racetrack, and the jockeys to utilize the ProCush whip and to consider an experiment where, for some period of time, the races would be conducted without whips if the safety concerns for the riders can be adequately addressed.”
While the VTA board of directors shares the sentiment that the whip played no role in the eventual injury of Eight Belles, they do acknowledge that many race fans oppose the use of the whip.