A jockeys’ mutiny for Monmouth Park’s upcoming racing season is brewing after the Superior Court of New Jersey declined a request to stay the New Jersey Racing Commission’s riding crop ban.
Three jockeys, including 13-time Monmouth riding champion Joe Bravo, told Thoroughbred Daily News they will not ride at Monmouth Park this season.
Super sad day to face the reality the NJRC is going to be enforcing a rule that I can use the riding crop for safety purposes ONLY. And they did it w/o having ANY conversation with any JOCKEYS so we could explain how extremely dangerous this is going to be for jockeys AND horses.
— Joe Bravo (@bravoace) April 20, 2021
“Under these conditions, no, I don’t think I can ride at Monmouth Park,” Bravo told TDN.
This comes in the wake of the NJRC banning the use of the riding crop “except for reasons of safety.” That decision came down last September, with the NJRC announcing the move came about because of the negative optics in today’s society of a rider whipping a horse.
Perception becomes reality
“The proposed repeal and new rules are of the utmost importance in adapting the industry to avoid the currently negative public perception of whipping a horse,” the NJRC’s statement read.
The new rule takes effect when Monmouth Park opens its summer meet on May 28. The Jockeys’ Guild first appealed the new rule to the NJRC last November. Once that body refused to stay enforcement, the Guild took it to court.
It sought a stay of the rule while appealing the decision. On Monday, the Court denied that stay.
“We are extremely disappointed in this decision on our motion for a stay of enforcement. This regulation prohibits jockeys from using the riding crop as they have been trained, increasing the risk of injury to both the horse and rider,” said Terry Meyocks, president and CEO of the Jockeys’ Guild, in a statement. “We hoped the Court would stay the regulation while our appeal is being considered, particularly because a stay would have maintained the status quo.”
California jockeys running into problems with new rule
Riding crop restrictions aren’t limited to New Jersey. The California Horse Racing Board passed a rule last fall that forbade riders from using the crop more than six times in a race or more than twice in succession without letting the horse respond.
That brought suspensions and fines to two of Santa Anita Park’s top riders, Umberto Rispoli and Juan Hernandez. Both were fined and then suspended for repeated violations of the rule. Many other California riders paid fines for violations.
Retired Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye, one of the winningest riders in the sport’s history, came out against the new regulations shortly after its passing. He told the Orange County Register that the new rules would cripple race handle.
Dire prediction from a riding legend
“Those gamblers, if they see you’re not trying, they’ll just quit the game,” Delahoussaye told the Register. “Those gamblers are going to leave and we won’t have racing.”
This is what Monmouth could face. And Bravo wasn’t shy about advertising that fact. He also echoed the same criticism Delahoussaye voiced last fall. Both took the whip to their respective commissions for not consulting jockeys while implementing the rules.
“They didn’t even speak to any of the New Jersey jockeys and ask what are your thoughts?” Bravo told TDN. “In today’s era, yes, there should be riding crop restrictions. I understand that. They have them at Delaware, at Tampa, and in California. We have no problem with that. But to take the whip away, completely away … that’s crazy.”