The New Jersey Racing Commission (NJRC) rescinded Monmouth Park’s draconian no-crop rule that was implemented for the 2021 racing season. The NJRC rescinded the rule in favor of the less-stringent House Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) guidelines.

Haskell finish-NJ No Crop rule
Hot Rod Charlie and Flavien Prat (L) were disqualified from last year’s Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park. Prat later said New Jersey’s no-crop rule was partially to blame for the colt’s interference and Mandaloun’s victory. (Image: Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO)

Those guidelines, called “house rules” in New Jersey, allow jockeys six strikes per race, with no more than two in succession before a horse has a chance to respond. There is no limit on underhanded strikes.

The NJRC voted 5-1 during a special meeting to approve the new crop guidelines. They go into effect at Monmouth Park starting with that track’s opening day, May 7. HISA’s regulations begin July 1 and the NJRC’s vote preempts Monmouth Park starting its season with the no-crop rule, then changing mid-meet.

“We are grateful to the New Jersey Racing Commission members for giving up their time to hold a special meeting on an issue that is important to the entire industry,” said Darby Development CEO and Chairman Dennis Drazin in a statement to Monmouth Park’s Tom Luicci. “The Commission recognized that uniformity on crop rules is paramount to our success and to the integrity of our product.”

Monmouth Park took a handle hit

Monmouth Park’s no-crop rule stipulated jockeys could only use their crops for safety reasons. Jockeys were uniformly against the change, with 13-time Monmouth Park riding leader Joe Bravo taking his tack to California. Another rider, Antonio Gallardo, went to Canada’s Woodbine. He said the rule was the reason for his migration north.

The rule also may have played a part in Monmouth Park’s 2021 daily average handle declining 17.13% from 2020 numbers. That, despite 11 more cards (55 to 44).

Drazin told Thoroughbred Daily News last year that he couldn’t pin the handle decline totally on the no-crop rule.

“A number of the whales I spoke to told me (the no-crop rule) was a factor why they weren’t betting,” he told TDN. “There were a number of people who were mixed on the whip rule. Some people said they were uncomfortable with the whip rule and couldn’t bet serious money. They told me they might bet a race because they wanted to have a good time and have some action. But they just bet less and didn’t make huge bets on those races. I’m sure the whip ban had some effect on our handle, but if I tried to quantify it, I don’t know that I could.”

No crop rule played a role in Monmouth’s biggest race

Flavien Prat cited the no-crop rule as the reason he and Hot Rod Charlie were disqualified from their apparent victory in Monmouth Park’s marquee race: the Grade 1 Haskell.

Prat was suspended seven days and Hot Rod Charlie taken down after he crossed over three paths in the stretch. That caused Hot Rod Charlie to clip heels with Midnight Bourbon, who fell, dumping his rider, Paco Lopez.

Neither Lopez, nor Midnight Bourbon were injured. But Prat later told BloodHorse that he could have prevented Hot Rod Charlie from veering left had he been able to use his crop.

Monmouth Park’s racing office will enforce the new crop rule. A three-person committee of racing officials will review each race.