Whipping rules change again
New Jersey’s toughest rule prohibiting jockeys from whipping a horse for any reason other than a safety issue is set to be in place when Monmouth Park opens May 7, Kentucky Derby Day, a year after a boycott by top riders and a rule-related disqualification from Haskell dominated the narrative at Jersey Shore Racecourse.
But with new federal regulations taking effect July 1 allowing jockeys to hit a horse six times during a race, and no more than twice in a row, the track is asking the New Jersey Racing Commission to allow it to use the rule pending from opening day, rather than changing two months after the start of competition.
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The jockeys guild led the push back to New Jersey rule, with a state appeals court ruling against the guild’s appeal last week, opening the door for the track to seek relief from the commission.
“I think we have a very good chance of doing that,” said Dennis Drazin, chief executive of Darby Development, which operates Monmouth Park.
“It doesn’t make sense to have different rules for starting the encounter and passing along the way.”
Goodbye “Jersey Joe”
Whatever decision is made in the coming weeks and beyond, it looks like 13-time Monmouth Park riding champion Joe Bravo, who led the opposition a year ago, will not return. The long-running Jersey Shore game was among a group of top runners who refused to ride at Monmouth Park, moving its base to California.
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“California is where I live and ride. That’s it,” Bravo said Friday of Keeneland, where he was scheduled to compete in a stakes race for trainer John Sadler. low all winter and Saturday and Sunday I will be back in Santa Anita.
“Home has always been Monmouth Park and home is the Jersey Shore. It’s a shame how it all turned out.”
Bravo, 50, whose mounts have earned $193 million over his career, received Santa Anita’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, given annually to a rider whose career and personal character complement the sport.
One way or another, the state whip rule is changing. But Monmouth Park is asking the Racing Commission to hold a special meeting to hear his case, in a bid to put the new rule, which is part of the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act, in place on the day of the opening.
“The way it works is if in fact (the commission) waives their rule, they can’t make a new rule,” Drazin said. “There is not enough time. You have to advertise, you have to put it in the registry, you have to take comments. So the path we think they would insist on is that we develop an internal rule that is the same as the HISA rule that covers all eventualities.
Here’s the catch:
Monmouth Park could not use the stewards, who are Racing Commission employees, to enforce the rule. Instead, the track would have its classification judges review the races, meet with the jockey if there are any issues, and make a recommendation, with racing secretary John Heims making the final decision on any penalties.
The track is trying to avoid what has become a messy encounter in 2021, balancing equine safety concerns with punters’ reluctance to bet on races in which jockeys couldn’t actively cheer on their mounts.
“I don’t want to get into a debate about how it was handled with the Guild and whether the jockeys should have shown up earlier (last year) that’s ancient history,” Drazin said. .
It all came to a head in the $1 Million TVG.com Haskell Stakes, when Hot Rod Charlie was disqualified after finishing first, with Mandaloun elevated to first place. Hot Rod Charlie interfered with Midnight Bourbon just inside the furlong post, with Midnight Bourbon tripping and knocking jockey Paco Lopez down, although neither horse nor rider were injured.
Flavien Prat, on Hot Rod Charlie, said his inability to use his whip – jockeys are allowed to use the whip in an emergency – contributed to the incident. California-based Prat ultimately received a seven-day suspension for the ride.