Monmouth Park jockeys threaten boycott over anti-whip rule
With the start of the racing season less than three weeks away, at least a half-dozen jockeys have said they will not race at Monmouth Park because of the New Jersey Racing Commission’s “anti-whip rule"
Under the rule, jockeys cannot use their whip or riding crop on the horse during a race or while exercising. Violation of the rule could result in a fine, suspension or forfeiture of the jockey's share of the purse “if, in the opinion of the stewards, the unauthorized use of the whip caused the horse to achieve a better placing.”
The rule will be enforced for the first time at Monmouth Park in Oceanport when it opens for the season on May 28. Horses will be visually inspected for evidence of "excessive or brutal use" of the crop.
The rule was passed by the commission at its Sept. 16, 2020 meeting to promote "equine welfare." It allows for use of a whip only to control the horse for safety reasons. Other states are taking similar measures but New Jersey's is the first to outright restrict their use.
"I understand that other states are taking a different approach by restricting the number of times the riding crop can be used to hit the horse. I understand that the New Jersey Racing Commission would be the first regulatory body in this country to prohibit the use of the riding crop, except when necessary for safety reasons, but it's time to stop hitting our horses to make them run faster," commission Chairman Pamela Clyne said during the meeting.
Executive Director Judith Nason said that jockeys will not be allowed to use their crop more than three consecutive times and only in a "sliding, gliding or tapping manner."
The whips will also change and must be no longer than 4 feet in length with a snapper not longer than 6 inches. No leather or unusual materials may be used and the conventional snapper may not be knotted or altered in any way.
The Jockey Guild, which represents jockeys, raised objections to the rule as did Dennis Drazin, whose company manages Monmouth Park. The union filed an appeal but it will not be heard until after opening day at Monmouth Park.
"We hoped the court would stay the regulation while our appeal is being considered, particularly because a stay would have maintained the status quo. After all, the commission enacted the regulation this past fall but had not yet enforced it.” Jockey Guild CEO Terry Meyocks said. “With the court’s decision that we learned of Monday, the Regulation is expected to be enforced in New Jersey beginning with the upcoming racing season in May.”
Jockeys Javier Castellano, Daniel Centeno, Antonio Gallardo, "Jersey" Joe Bravo, Mike Johnson and Romero Maragh said on their respective Twitter accounts that they will not race at Monmouth Park if the new rule remains in effect.
Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso, R-Monmouth, who represents Oceanport, told New Jersey 101.5 she is concerned about the impact on the park as it comes back from a late opening in 2020 because of pandemic restrictions that reduced the crowd size.
"That would be detrimental to the park. If the jockeys are going to boycott, the park won't be able to open. That's a lifeblood of Oceanport and part of Monmouth County tourism," DiMaso said. "It's a big problem."
"We expect to have enough jockeys to permit racing to open as expected," Drazin said in an email to New Jersey 101.5. "Monmouth Park supports a standard uniform rule throughout the United States. Primary concern should be safety of riders and horses."
Representatives of the racing commission and the Jockey Guild did not immediately return requests for comment on Monday afternoon.