After hearing pushback from a pair of active jockeys, the California Horse Racing Board continued to postpone action on mandating the use of a circular foam-tipped riding crop to its state's jockeys during a Feb. 20 meeting in Sacramento, Calif.
A similar amendment was tabled during the previous meeting Jan. 22, when the CHRB heard from Hall of Fame jockey Ramon Dominguez, the maker of the rounded-tip 360 GT crop. During that meeting, commissioners expressed their desire to obtain more information and to write language in an amendment that would allow multiple vendors to supply the desired crops.
Although the updated language in the proposed amendment Thursday did not specifically state that the 360 GT was the sole riding crop available for use, Thoroughbred rider Aaron Gryder and Quarter Horse jockey Cody Jensen said options for a rounded crop are limited and that the relatively new 360 GT needs refinement.
"I think it's sometimes a little bit too early—I don't know that we've had the testing to say, 'This one is the one that needs to be done,'" Gryder told the CHRB. "The creator of it was one of the best riders that ever rode. He's an idol of mine, but the majority of the riders have not been comfortable with this version of it."
Jensen repeated that sentiment, noting that in Quarter Horse racing, speed, and maneuverability in a crop is paramount during a race that might last only 20 seconds. He and Gryder said the 360 GT is a bit cumbersome, making it problematic for changing hands and holding the crop while still maintaining control of the reins.
"We've got to have something a lot lighter, a lot quicker, a lot more responsive than the version we've got right now," Jensen said. "And, unfortunately, right now it is the only version that is available."
The 360 GT was designed by Dominguez to be more forgiving to horses when they are struck, with its rounded tip made to eliminate edges that could leave cuts or welts. Dominguez discussed his crop and its advantages with commissioners last month. He began appearing on television to promote its use last spring.
The 360 GT has been tried by jockeys across the country, though only a small number regularly use the crop, Gryder said.
Ramon Dominguez joins @christinablackr on the set @keenelandracing as he talks about his 360 GT (gentle touch) Crop. All the jockeys are riding with them today at Keeneland. pic.twitter.com/RjSGZqlgrz— TVG (@TVG) April 4, 2019
CHRB chair Dr. Greg Ferraro and other commissioners expressed a desire to pattern an amendment that would be in line with a riding-crop proposal in discussion between the Jockeys' Guild, an organization that represents Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse riders, and the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition, a partnership of leading racetracks and industry groups.
Commissioners agreed to further discuss riding-crop specifications during their March 19 meeting, also in Sacramento.
In action taken by the board Thursday, commissioners advanced proposals calling for restrictions on horses that have been treated with bisphosphonates and requiring a 30-day waiting period from the use of shock wave therapy before horses are eligible to work or to come onto a CHRB-regulated racetrack or training center.
"This particular proposal will essentially eliminate shock wave (therapy) on the backside," CHRB equine director Dr. Rick Arthur said.
The regulation concerning bisphosphonates—drugs intended to treat bone loss in humans and older horses with navicular disease—will restrict a horse from being treated with them at a CHRB-regulated facility or brought onto such property after such treatment.
Bisphosphonates have become a concern in young sale horses because they are used to hide radiographic evidence of sesamoiditis in young horses. Last spring, officials from the Keeneland Association, Fasig-Tipton, and Ocala Breeders' Sales Company jointly announced they will enable buyers of horses younger than 4 to have those horses tested for bisphosphonates, a policy that was undertaken to ban off-label use of these drugs.
The CHRB meeting was the second of the year in Sacramento, one of four scheduled there through April, before the CHRB rotates its meetings to other venues. In what has become a regular part of CHRB meetings, a handful of California residents and animal welfare group protesters expressed their dismay with horse racing and the CHRB, some calling for an end to racing.
Prior to the consideration of various amendments Thursday, CHRB executive director Rick Baedeker stated in his regular report that wagering on daytime racing in California—Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields race during this period—fell 8% in January with two fewer race days than in 2019; the average daily handle was down 2%. Daytime racing accounts for most of the state's betting.
Nighttime racing had three additional programs and was up over 6%. Los Alamitos Race Course runs a mixed meet of Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses at night in Southern California.
Baedeker also announced the CHRB's new assistant executive director, Cynthia Alameda.