LOS ANGELES -- Jockeys and exercise riders in California will be working under a more restrictive rule governing the use of whips that goes into effect on Thursday.
The amended Rule 1688 was designed by the California Horse Racing Board to further protect horses without compromising the safety of horses and riders, although as written it is not being widely embraced by some riders. They believe whips are a necessary part of their equipment to keep horses and riders safe.
Riders cannot use the whip more than six times during a race, excluding showing or waving the whip or tapping the horse on the shoulder. They can't use the whip more than two times in succession as part of the six-time limit without giving the horse a chance to respond before using the whip again.
The rule states that whips must be used in an underhanded position with it always at or below the shoulder level of the rider. During training, the whip can only be used for the safety of a horse or rider.
Without mitigating circumstances, jockeys or exercise riders who violate the rule face a maximum fine of $1,000 and a minimum suspension of three days by the stewards. However, jockeys or exercise riders won't be punished if, in the opinion of the stewards, the use of the whip was necessary for the safety of the horse or rider.
Stewards will meet with jockeys at California tracks to explain the rule and answer questions during the early days of the change.
The racing board is recommending to stewards that they should allow for mitigating circumstances "to make the transition to the amended rule less disruptive to jockeys, in particular, as well as all stakeholders and the wagering public generally."
The rule covers all thoroughbred, quarter horse and mixed-breed races and training in California.