KHRC Approves Amended Riding Crop Rule

KHRC Approves Amended Riding Crop Rule

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved an amendment to the state’s riding crop rule at its June 22 meeting that the Jockeys’ Guild hopes can become a uniform rule across North America. 

The amendment was approved May 3 by the KHRC Rules Committee before voted on by the full commission Tuesday. 

As explained by KHRC general counsel Jennifer Wolsing, the amendment will allow the riding crop to be used: 

  • No more than six times in the overhand fashion
  • No more than two times in succession
  • To avoid a dangerous situation or to preserve the safety of racing participants and/or horses
  • If necessary, in backhanded or underhanded fashion from the three-eighths pole to the finish line, which does not count the use of the crop six times in the overhand fashion
  • Tapping the horse in the down position with both hands holding the reins and touching the horse’s neck
  • Showing or waving the crop without making contact with the horse

The rule will also be changed so that a jockey will not be allowed to use the crop with their wrist above helmet height. 

“I want to thank the Kentucky Racing Commission, the Rules Committee, (KHRC chairman) Jonathan Rabinowitz, (commissioner) Charlie O’Connor, and (KHRC executive director) Marc Guilfoil. This rule was indeed a compromise on both parties, but we feel this rule is a fair compromise and is in the best interest of our industry,” said Terry Meyocks, president and CEO of the Jockeys’ Guild. “We committed in April that we would endorse the Kentucky rule for the riding crop and hopefully it would be the uniform rule for the riding crop in North America.”

The KHRC in September 2020 approved suggested changes to the riding crop rule, which brought concerns from the Jockey’s Guild. Numerous meetings with commission members, industry representatives, and legislators were held over the next eight months to reach a compromise. 

Race 3, Racing scenes at Keeneland on April 12, 2018 Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Racing at Keeneland

“This has gone on for years and I really want to thank the Rules Committee, specifically Commissioners Charlie and Mark (Simendinger) here for all their hard work,” said Rabinowitz. “I want to make sure I thank Johnny (Velazquez) and Corey Lanerie and Terry for educating us a little bit more on their concerns and working with us through the process. And I want to thank (Kentucky House) Speaker (David) Osborne and Sen. (Damon) Thayer, too. They were integral in helping us work through the process.”

For violations of the amended rule, stewards will be able to impose either a minimum $500 fine or a minimum three-day suspension. If stewards find the violation to be egregious or intentional, they may impose both a fine and a suspension. Wolsing said stewards may consider all factors—including the jockey’s history of similar violations, the number of uses over the total and consecutive limits, and the number of times the crop is used in the overhand fashion beyond the six times allowed—to determine if a violation is egregious or intentional.

Also noted during the commission meeting, the 2021 Keeneland spring meet concluded with no racing fatalities, according to chief veterinarian Nick Smith, but there was one training fatality due to a musculoskeletal injury.

O’Connor, director of sales for Coolmore America, stated at the close of the meeting that he is recusing himself from any commission involvement with a lawsuit filed by Spendthrift Farm, Coolmore’s Ashford Stud (under the name Bemak N.V.), and Three Chimneys Farm challenging The Jockey Club’s rule to restrict Thoroughbred stallions from breeding more than 140 mares each year. The complaint, filed Feb. 23, names The Jockey Club, Rabinowitz, and Guilfoil as defendants.

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