Whip reform in horse racing is inevitable, former racing regulator Joe Gorajec writes in his InsideRacingRegs blog published at the The Jockey Club and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association's Horse Racing Reform website.
Citing the recent proposal by The Stronach Group (TSG) to limit use of the riding crop at its California tracks for safety and steering purposes only and quoting from Bob Dylan's 1964 anthem The Times They Are a-Changin', Gorajec says the only question is when the rest of the industry will get behind the California reforms.
In response to 23 racing and training fatalities at Santa Anita and the ensuing media attention and public outcry, TSG chair Belinda Stronach proposed a number of safety and welfare reforms that the California Horse Racing Board has ratified. Among them is a restriction on whipping.
“Many in the racing industry reject a correlation between whipping and horses' breaking down,” writes Gorajec. “These people are missing the point. The media coverage of Santa Anita has shown some of the sport's practices to be offensive to the public at large. Once the racing industry draws attention to itself, as it has with these horse deaths at Santa Anita, all of its warts become exposed for the nation to see. Whipping is a wart. It needs to be eliminated.”
He added, “My advocacy for racing without whipping is a plea, not a criticism.”
Referring to a recent Paulick Report poll that asked readers for their opinion on use of the whip or riding crop, Gorajec asks, “Will the industry try to find a middle ground to appease its various special interest groups or will it act in the short-, medium-, long-term interest of the sport and embrace the Stronach whipping reform now? The Stronach reform would most likely stand the test of time. Once implemented nationally, this issue would not resurface.
“If the public outrage regarding the Santa Anita fatalities is not enough to spur the racing industry to finally put this issue to rest,” he writes, “we will just have to wait a little while longer.
“Another catalyst is right around the corner.”
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