Anne M. Eberhardt

California Preparing Riding Crop Rule Change

New rule would require pause after jockeys hit a horse a maximum of three times.

A rule that would limit use of the riding crop by jockeys during races is expected to be put in place at the upcoming 24-day Santa Anita Park autumn meet to begin Sept. 26.

Jockeys' Guild regional manager Darrell Haire said industry leaders and regulators in California have been working since May to put in place a new rule on use of the riding crop by jockeys during races. He said the new rule would limit jockeys to hitting the horse a maximum of three times before taking time off to see how the horse reacts.

Haire expects the California Horse Racing Board to put the new rule in place by the beginning of 2015 but since all parties are ready to go, he said Santa Anita plans to put the rule in place for its autumn meet that will include the Breeders' Cup World Championships. 

"We've had numerous meetings between the riders and the stewards, working to come up with something that works," Haire said. "More than the majority of riders are OK with this."

The rule will require a pause after a horse is hit three times. The rider can use that time to hand-ride the horse or move the riding crop from one hand to another. Haire said through the meetings, most of the riders have reached a consensus.

"You can hit them three times and then you have to give them a chance to respond," Haire said. "While they're responding, the rider can push on them a few strides or switch sticks, which takes a couple of strides."

Haire said any sanctions for misuse of the whip will fall on the rider. He said the rule does not call for disqualification of the horse or purse money if a rider violates the rule. He said sanctions of any rider who violates the rule initially will start out relatively small as jockeys adjust to the change.

"They can adapt to it and the riders have already started adapting since the beginning of Del Mar," Haire said.