After Close Vote, CHRB Tables Question Of Increased Penalties For Whip Violations

After hearing a variety of opinions on the question of increasing financial penalties for whip rule violations, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) voted Tuesday to put off making a decision.

The proposed rule change before the board would have required stewards to issue a minimum $500 fine for a whip rule violation and would have given them leverage to fine a rider as much as 50 percent of their earnings in a graded stakes if they finish first, second, or third and have a history of violations. The current rule language caps fines at $1,000 and a minimum suspension of three days.

The reasoning for the proposed change was that riders may see the existing fine structure as either “the cost of doing business” or a worthwhile trade off for a better finish in a prestigious race, reducing compliance in situations with higher earning potential.

Attorney Shane Gusman, representing The Jockeys’ Guild in the matter, objected to the proposed rule language, saying that it made the jockeys’ behavior the sole subject of criticism and said the proposed fine was unreasonably high for riders who don’t earn huge checks regularly.

“The penalty revisions exacerbate what is already an unfair system in our view, which focuses on the conduct of the jockeys, rather than a more equal system that looks at the conduct in racing as a whole,” said Gusman, who points out the rule language would allow for a minimum $500 fine for even one hit over the limit. “There are other penalties under the CHRB rule structure where if there’s a violation, the entire team is penalized.”

“The jockey is the one who has control of the crop, sir,” said CHRB chairman Dr. Greg Ferraro. “There’s an easy way to avoid this fine and that’s to not violate the rule.”

The Thoroughbred Owners of California president Greg Avioli voiced concern about “unintended consequences” of the proposed changes to the rule and urged the CHRB to hold off further rule changes until a national rule regarding the whip can be implemented.

Predictably, non-industry observers used the public comment period to point out incidents of excessive whip use — some of which took pace outside the state — and highlight the negative public perception around permissive whip rules. Industry representatives, including trainers Doug O’Neill and Jenine Sahadi, voiced opposition to the proposed rule, which they thought was unfairly harsh on riders and was designed to address public misconceptions about the use and construction of the modern whip.

There was division within the board, also.

“I’m watching the races here and I feel like all jockeys are doing a great job, riding with the crop down,” said CHRB board member and former jockey Alex Solis. “The other thing is we keep losing riders … We’ve lost a bunch of riders and I’m afraid we’re going to lose more. People think the jockeys make so much money but they don’t remember you have to pay 20 percent to your agent, 5 percent to your valet, and your taxes. California is an expensive state to live in. We’re really going to add more?”

CHRB board member Oscar Gonzales said he believes California riders have made an effort to change to comply with the new rules and that the board needs to work harder to retain riders — but he is worried about the issue at big events.

“I believe that in protecting the brand of horse racing, we have to continue to innovate,” said CHRB board member Oscar Gonzales, citing the upcoming Breeders’ Cup as the main impetus for this potential change.

Commissioners Gonzales, Davis, and Mitchell voted not to table the motion, while commissioners Alfieri, Ferraro, Castellanos, and Solis voted to table it.

The post After Close Vote, CHRB Tables Question Of Increased Penalties For Whip Violations appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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