Softer Whips for Racehorses at Del Mar

Del Mar is taking the sting out of its whips.

On Wednesday, it will become the first California racetrack to require riding crops that don't raise welts.

Darrell Haire, regional manager for the Jockeys' Guild, said the whips are made of softer leather or fabric. They're supposed to get the horse's attention with a popping noise rather than by causing pain.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith says he's used a padded whip for some time.

"With the old crop, if you knew how to use it, it was fine. Sometimes though in the heat of battle you might make a mistake," he said in a release.

"With these new riding crops, it really eliminates that possibility. They make noise, but they are all cushion and don't cause any harm to the horse."

The new whips cost more but the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club will provide them to jockeys who can't afford them. The track purchased 40 whips from four different suppliers so enough will be available, Haire said.

"With the new riding crop, horses seem to react to the sound of the popper rather than from a physical reaction to the whip," jockey Garrett Gomez said.

"It's good for racing and we wanted to be at the forefront."

Actress Bo Derek is on the California Horse Racing Board and says she noticed many Del Mar jockeys already using the whips. She suggested making it a rule.

"The jockeys deserve all the credit. They were out front on this issue,"

she said in the release. "Racing provides entertainment, jobs and revenue for the state of California. Helping the horses which compete in those races is a goal we can all work toward."

Hollywood Park will require the softer whips this fall. Tracks in Kentucky, New York, and Maryland already do so.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.