Santa Anita has announced a new whipping rule for its upcoming Fall meet – no more than three consecutive strikes, then wait for a “response” before whipping can resume. Santa Anita’s president says (DRF, 9/2/14), “It’s good for the horse, and it’s good for public perception.” Darrell Haire of the Jockeys’ Guild adds, “It’s perception more than anything, but perception is reality.” Exactly.
With this summer’s spate of deaths at Del Mar (16), California racing is reeling – and the Breeders’ Cup beckons. So, a show of “commitment to equine welfare” was needed. But like NYRA’s “thorough investigation” into The Saratoga 12, this kinder, gentler brand of jockeying is nothing more than a marketing ploy. As an aside, if the whip were truly the harmless, painless guide some insist – “more about sound than feel,” “barely registers on a half-ton animal” – wouldn’t regulating its use be largely unnecessary?