Laurel Park jockeys used new, cushioned riding crops for the first time as a group during Thursday's program to positive reviews.
The 360 GT (gentle touch) crop was designed by retired Hall of Fame jockey Ramon Dominguez and put into use courtesy of the Maryland Jockey Club, which purchased the first batch of 50 for its riders.
“So far, everything is good. We've had no complaints,” six-time Maryland meet champion Sheldon Russell said. Russell captured Thursday's opener with Mary Boskin homebred Brooks Robinson ($8.40), named for the Baltimore Orioles' Hall of Fame third baseman.
The new crop has a larger, cushioned padding at the end designed to have less impact on horses. Some Laurel riders began experimenting with it during a special Easter Monday program.
“It's a little bit of a different design than we're used to riding with, but the handle and the flexibility is very similar,” Russell said. “As long as it's safer for the horses, we're all on board. We're trying to make it safer for the horses and safer for the game. We don't want any problems. Everything's good. The horses seem to be running; if anything, they're running a little bit faster, time-wise.
“And fair play to the Maryland Jockey Club for giving us the first one on the house so we can test it all out. We got a big shipment to choose from,” he added. “Everything seems to be going smoothly, so onward and upward.”
Spring meet-leading rider Trevor McCarthy, Maryland's two-time overall champion, won Thursday's eighth race with Granpollo Stable's Gran City ($7.20).
“I really like it,” he said. “I think it's great for the horses. I got a win with it, so that was good.”
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