The whip came down first in England, literally, when Thoroughbred racing authorities decreed that a riding crop could not be used on a racehorse more than seven times in a race. Next came the ruling in New Jersey which instituted the draconian rule that a horse could only to whipped to keep it and its rider out of danger. California entered the discussion by ruling that a horse could only be whipped a total of six times in a race. Maryland, Kentucky, Delaware, and Ontario are also in the process of determining whether new whip rules should be implemented.
There is a gathering swell among Thoroughbred racing authorities to restrict the jockey's use of the crop on horses. The next major player to enter the discussion—kind of—was New York.
On October 19, the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) held a 2:15 hour teleconference to discuss the issue of jockeys' employing riding crops on Thoroughbred horses at New York's state tracks. The session was primarily a time of gathering opinions and sharing thoughts with no proposals made for regulation and no votes taken. There were a wide variety of views expressed in the conference, ranging from making no change at all to abandoning the use of the whip altogether.
While it is not widely recognized, stewards at New York tracks have the prerogative already to levy fines against jockeys for improper or harmful use of the whip against horses. In fact, the current rules restrict a jockey to only five blows with the whip before the horse does or does not respond. Annually, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) imposes about 10 fines a year for whipping infractions.
Several Hall of Fame jockeys, including Mike E. Smith, the winningest jockey in the history of the Breeders' Cup Championship Series, participated in the teleconference. The position taken by the jockeys, by in large, was to maintain the status quo in allowing the use of the crop.
James Gagliano, President and CEO of The Jockeys' Club, commented on society's changing view of the treatment of horses as a whole. "In today's world, things are changing. To me and to The Jockeys' Club, we see a future where hitting an animal with a stick won't be acceptable, and certainly not for urging [horses to run faster]."
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