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Jockeys weigh in on proposed whipping rules in California

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ARCADIA, Calif. — The California Horse Racing Board has amended proposed changes to rules governing how jockeys may use riding crops in races, while The Jockeys’ Guild continues to press its case that the crops are necessary for control of a racehorse.

Triple Crown-winning jockey Mike Smith told the racing board’s medication, safety and welfare committee Wednesday that riding crops are “a crucial part of our sport.”

The proposed changes that would have severely limited the use of crops were first introduced last month in an effort to address the deaths of nearly two dozen horses in training and racing incidents at Santa Anita since Dec. 26.

While supporting measures that increase horse and rider safety, representatives of The Jockeys’ Guild expressed concern that the racing board was trying to ban crops altogether.

Committee chairman Madeline Auerbach was quick to correct that notion Wednesday.

“No one has suggested that you do without it. You do have to have a whip for safety,” she said. “We are forced, so that we can keep racing alive, to do things to make it acceptable to the general public. What can we do so that the use of the whip does not become the thing that takes the entire industry down?”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which is calling for an end to horse racing, has urged changes in the use of whips.

“We’ll do our best to show the people that don’t know who are interested that we love horses and we’re doing all this for the good,” Smith said outside the meeting. “It’s also a sport, so there’s ways to ask a horse to reach its full potential without harming them in any way. That’s what the new riding crops do and that’s what we do.”

The Jockeys’ Guild said retired rider Ramon Dominguez is working to develop a new crop with input from current riders.

The guild said it bought 360 new crops for California jockeys who used them April 12 at Santa Anita with stewards’ approval. Jockeys at Golden State Fields in Northern California, Florida’s Gulfstream Park, Keeneland in Kentucky and in New York also tested the so-called 360GT crop.

“With these new cushion crops we have these days, you’re not hurting a horse regardless if you know how to do it (whip) right or not,” Smith said.

Auerbach said she has noticed jockeys at Santa Anita using crops more responsibly since the spate of deaths at the Arcadia track.

“I’ve seen more judicious riding, more careful riding, less cowboy-type things,” she said.

Cody Jensen, a quarterhorse rider for 25 years, said, “Everybody now understands there’s a price to pay for it.”

The state racing board has narrowed the proposed rules. It would prohibit using a crop on a horse’s head, flanks or any parts of its body other than shoulders or hind quarters. The crop could only be used when necessary to control the horse for its safety or that of the rider.

Any jockey riding in a manner contrary to the rule may be suspended or fined by the stewards and could have the rider’s share of any purse money disqualified if the stewards believe the unauthorized use of the crop caused it to achieve a better finish.

Jockeys aren’t required to ride with crops, and if they don’t fans would be advised over the public address system.

The proposed changes also would apply to exercise riders, who typically work out horses in the mornings.

The vote to limit whips will go to a regulatory agency for a 45-day public comment period. It will have to go before the racing board again before it can become permanent regulation, according to a board spokesman.

The Jockeys’ Guild emphasized its belief that riding crops are “still necessary for encouragement, communication and control.”

Jensen, based at Los Alamitos racetrack in Orange County, urged the committee to “let us police ourselves.”

“Too many riders aren’t properly informed on how to use a whip,” he said. “We should do a better job of enforcing the proper technique to use a tool, and don’t kid yourself, that is a tool and a very well-used tool when used correctly. When used irresponsibly, it can cause a lot of damage.”

Meanwhile, there were no positive tests in the first two weeks of racing at Santa Anita under new rules limiting race-day medication.

Dr. Rick Arthur, equine consultant to the racing board, announced the results, which drew applause from Auerbach.

The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, implemented the changes in mid-March.

Arthur said the test results are “fairly impressive given how quickly this was implemented.” He said out-of-competition testing done on horses at Santa Anita also yielded no positives.

Among the changes imposed by The Stronach Group were banning the use of the anti-bleeding medication Lasix and increasing the ban on legal therapeutic NSAIDs, joint injections, shockwave therapy and anabolic steroids.

Maximum Security wins Haskell, survives inquiry

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OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) Maximum Security captured the $1 million Haskell Invitational and, unlike the Kentucky Derby, survived a steward’s inquiry Saturday night.

It capped a long day that included a major delay triggered by intense heat and the safety concerns for the horses and riders. It led to the cancellation of six races and the delay in six stakes, including the Haskell, the biggest race in Monmouth’s meet.

When racing resumed around 6 p.m., the stakes went off without a hitch until the Haskell.

Maximum Security got to the finish line first, outlasting trainer Bob Baffert’s Mucho Gusto by 1 1/4 lengths.

For a minute, it seemed a clear-cut win in the Grade I race. However, the stewards posted the inquiry sign. Videotape replays showed King for a Day had to check when Maximum Security and Mucho Gusto stormed past.

However, it was quickly dismissed, unlike the Derby when there was a 22-minute delay before Country House was elevated to the top spot and Maximum Security was dropped to 17th place. It was the first time a horse that crossed the finish line first in the Derby was disqualified.

Owners Gary and Mary West are still trying to overturn that decision in federal court in Kentucky.

This was one of the most bizarre days in the 52-year history of the Haskell and it was just another weird twist in the 3-year-old thoroughbred picture which has had one strange turn after another.

There was the Kentucky Derby disqualification. A riderless horse in the Preakness. Three different winners of the Triple Crown races.

The latest turn came Saturday as the extreme temperature and a heat index value reaching 107- caused track officials to a order a 4 1/2-hour delay after the running of the first two races on the 14-race card.

The Haskell went off at 8:11 p.m., 2 hours, 24 minutes after its scheduled start. The field was reduced to six horses when third-place Belmont States finisher Joevia scratch after the delay.

The 1 1/8-mile race was outstanding. King for a Day, who beat Maximum Security in the Pegasus here last month, and the four of the other five colts were closely bunched for the early going with only Everfast trailing.

Around the far turn, Maximum Security and jockey Luis Saez and Mucho Gusto and rider Joe Talamo charged around King for a Day, who was on the rail.

Maximum Security was in the middle lane with Mucho Gusto on the outside. As they turned for home, Maximum Security seemed to put King for a Day and jockey John Velazquez in tight quarters. The only question was whether King for a Day committed a foul or King for a Day ran out of room as he tried to charge up the rail.

There was no change this time. The Jason Servis-trained Maximum Security covered the distance in 1:47.56 and paid $3.60, $2.60 and $2.20.

Mucho Gusto returned $3.40 and $2.80. Spun To Run finished third and paid $5.60 to show.

For the second straight day, the National Weather Service posted an excessive heat warning advisory Saturday, with near steady temperatures in the lower 90s in Monmouth County. The heat index values reached 107. It dipped to 103 by the time racing resumed.

Animal rights activists protested outside the New Jersey Shore track before the first race was to run.

Dennis Drazin, chairman and chief executive of Darby Development, operators of Monmouth Park, said a group of track, state and independent veterinarians monitored the heat for days and felt it was safe to race.

“However, given the heightened concern from the public about the heat, and in the interest of the safety of the horses and jockeys, we’ve decided to proceed with an abundance of caution, to cancel the remaining nonstakes races and to delay the six stakes races,” he said.

None of the horses who competed in the eight races run showed any sign of injury.

Drazin said he had been in contact with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. The governor left the final decision on whether to run to Drazin. He opted for caution in delaying the card, fearing harm to the horses and industry if there were a death.

With racing under pressure because of many horse deaths horses in California, most East coast tracks on Friday canceled their Saturday cards, including Saratoga Race Course.

“It would have created additional momentum to the crisis that already exists because of California problems,” Drazin said of a possible death of a horse. “We’re on the cusp of a crisis in the industry.”

A crowd of 37,186 attended last year’s Haskell, and another big crowd was expected Saturday for Monmouth Park’s biggest racing day. When the announcement came of canceled races and the delayed stakes, fans streamed to the exits. The track announced an attendance of 25,173 but many left before the big races.

Drazin said no decision had been made on how to compensate fans who paid for admission and parking. The track canceled its card planned for Sunday.

NBC was going to televise the Haskell live when it had a 5:47 p.m. post time, but it ended up streaming the race live on its digital platform.

Midnight Bisou won her fifth straight stakes this year, capturing the $150,000 Molly Pitcher with Mike Smith riding.

In other stakes, Just Howard edged Divisidero by a head in the $150,000 Oceanport; Justaholic ($5) won the $75,000 Wolf Hill; War Story ($16) took the $200,000 Monmouth Cup and I’m So Fancy ($5.80) captured the $150,000 WinStar Matchmaker.

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues on NBC Sports with the Whitney Stakes from Saratoga Springs on August 3. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Monmouth racing card shaken amid fierce heat, track protests

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OCEANPORT, N.J. — With extreme heat draining fans and causing concern about the horses, Monmouth Park canceled six races and pushed back until early evening its stakes races, including the $1 million Haskell Invitational headlined by Maximum Security.

The decision came after the start of the first race was delayed and the racing card was re-evaluated after the second race.

The National Weather Service again posted an excessive heat warning advisory Saturday, with near steady temperatures in the lower 90s in Monmouth County. The heat index values reached 107.

Animal rights activists protested outside the New Jersey Shore track before the first race was to run.

Dennis Drazin, chairman and chief executive of Darby Development, operators of Monmouth Park, said a group of track, state and independent veterinarians monitored the heat for days and felt it was safe to race.

“However, given the heightened concern from the public about the heat, and in the interest of the safety of the horses and jockeys, we’ve decided to proceed with an abundance of caution, to cancel the remaining nonstakes races and to delay the six stakes races,” he said.

Drazin said he had been in contact with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who left the decision on whether to race to Drazin. He went with caution, fearing harm to the horses and industry if there were a death.

With racing under pressure because of many horse deaths horses in California, most East coast tracks on Friday canceled their Saturday cards, including Saratoga Race Course and Finger Lakes in New York and Laurel Park in Maryland.

“It would have created additional momentum to the crisis that already exists because of California problems,” Drazin said of a possible death of a horse. “We’re on the cusp of a crisis in the industry.”

A crowd of 37,186 attended last year’s Haskell, and another big crowd was expected Saturday for Monmouth Park’s biggest racing day. When the announcement came of canceled races and the delayed stakes, fans streamed to the exits.

Drazin said no decision had been made on how to compensate fans who paid for admission and parking.

In addition to the Haskell, the card’s other stakes races are The Oceanport, The Molly Pitcher, The Wolf Hill, The Monmouth Cup and the Matchmaker.

NBC was going to televise the Haskell live when it had a 5:47 p.m. post time. Monmouth spokesman Tom Luicci said the network planned to fill its 5-6 p.m. slot with other horse-racing covering. It was going to stream the race live on its digital platform at 8:05 p.m., he said.

The start of the first race was delayed by almost 40 minutes, with no reason given at the time for the move. The 14-race card was reassessed after the next race. The six stakes races were reset for 6 p.m., with the Haskell at 8:05 p.m.

Maximum Security, who finished first in the Kentucky Derby and then was disqualified, leads the field of seven in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell.

The first two races went off without incident. The horses were hosed down on the track after the races. There were misting fans in the paddock before the races.