Horses race through the stretch at at Woodbine

Horses race through the stretch at at Woodbine

Michael Burns

Woodbine to Try New Rules on Riding Crop Use

After trial period, rules likely to be fully rolled out next season.

In what will be considered a test period, jockeys at Woodbine Racetrack will compete under new riding rules that will add restrictions on riding crop use beginning Oct. 18 through the end of the meet, Dec. 15.

The rules for the test period were reached by track owner Woodbine Entertainment, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association of Ontario, and the Jockey's Benevolent Association of Canada.

The new rules will limit urging in Thoroughbred racing to underhand use of the crop only, allow no contact with the horse with the crop in the cocked position, and prohibit any hits to the horse's belly or surrounding area.

"Woodbine Entertainment is committed to safety and being a leader of change for the betterment of the horse racing industry in Ontario and throughout North America," said Woodbine Entertainment CEO Jim Lawson, who was recently appointed to The Jockey Club Safety Committee in the United States. "We are proud to partner with the AGCO, HBPA, and JBAC on this important initiative that will surely have a positive impact on our sport and industry."

Over the past several months, regulatory staff have met with key executive representatives from Woodbine Entertainment, the jockeys, and horsemen to discuss and build consensus on how best to amend the rules. This dialogue will continue throughout the remainder of the Woodbine race meet and will inform the regulator's evaluation.

Retired Hall of Fame jockey Sandy Hawley sees benefit to the rule change and using the "test period" as an important first step.

"I will always be very supportive of any improvement to horse racing that's for the betterment of the sport and the safety of the horses and the riders," Hawley said in a release. "It is very important to hear the response of the riders after the test period of this new rule and I support 100% the opinion of the jockeys."

Hawley added that from his 30 years of experience as rider, some horses did need the whip to help guide them and keep them on a straight course.

Following the end of the Woodbine race meet Dec. 15, the regulator will evaluate the effects of the changes to determine if further revisions are necessary prior to full roll out at Woodbine and Fort Erie Racetrack for the start of the 2020 meets.

In order to facilitate the transition to the new rules, training materials and orientation sessions will be provided to participants and race officials. Special paddock meetings will be held for jockeys as they adjust their riding style to meet the new requirements. 

A complete description of the rule