Leading Meadowlands driver George Brennan and USTA Director Alan Leavitt submitted comments on Monday regarding an upcoming USTA rule change proposal on whipping. Today, driver Yannick Gingras offers his comments. The rule change proposal, which will be considered by the USTA board of directors at its annual meeting Feb. 3-6, has produced a flurry of comments from concerned horsemen and fans. To participate in the discussion on Harnessphere, the USTA’s social networking site, visit http://harnessphere.ustrotting.com/topic/2066.
Dear Fellow Horsemen and Horsewomen:
I have read both the articles that have appeared on the USTA Web site regarding the proposed whipping rule and I support George Brennan’s thoughts on this issue. I feel compelled to respond about this matter.
However, I believe before we make changes we need to understand where the problem lies. We need to understand the current rules on this subject and make sure that we are enforcing the rules we currently have as an industry at the USTA on “whipping.”
We also need to understand the safety issues involved for all drivers, see what our fans perception is of the current whipping rule and the proposed new whipping rule.
This is a challenging task where I believe all drivers should have input along with all owners and trainers and our most important element, the fan. An industry wide vote sent out by the USTA to the entire membership, and an online vote from our fans, may be necessary. If a majority deems it necessary to make changes in the rules we should organize a meeting of all interested parties and come up with a solution that includes and maintains the safety and well being of the horses and drivers together and protects all interested parties of our industry, including the racing fans.
The current rules on whipping from the USTA currently state the following:
“Drivers will be allowed whips not to exceed 4 feet, plus a snapper not longer than 6 inches. Provided further that the following actions shall be considered as excessive or indiscriminate use of the whip:
A.) Causing visible injury.
B.) Whipping a horse after a race.
C.) Whipping under the arch or shafts of the sulky.
The use of the whip shall be confined to an area above and between the sulky shafts, to include the sulky shafts and the outside wheel discs. Drivers shall keep a line in each hand from the start of the race until the head of the stretch finishing the race. At extended pari-mutuel meetings, under the supervision of the Judges, there shall be mandatory visual inspection of each horse following each race for evidence of excessive or brutal use of the whip. At all other meetings, the Judges shall have the authority to order/and or conduct such visual inspection at their discretion. The use of any goading device, chain, or mechanical devices or appliances, other than the ordinary whip or crop upon any horse in any race shall constitute a violation of this rule. The brutal use of a whip or crop or excessive or indiscriminate use of the whip or crop shall be considered a violation and shall be punished by a fine and/or suspension. The mandatory minimum penalty for a whipping violation shall be a fine in the amount of $100 and a 3 day suspension from driving for the first offense and for each subsequent violation the mandatory minimum penalty shall increase in the amount of $100 and 3 days (e.g. $200 and 6 days for the 2nd offense, $300 and 9 days for the 3rd offense, etc.)”
I think those rules listed above applied by all Judges and jurisdictions would be sufficient if everyone applies them in the same manner. I am convinced if these current rules were applied by the judges we would not find ourselves in this position. I also feel that I should tell you that in many cases such as mine I did not know what the current whipping rule was on the books at the USTA, but I have since refreshed my memory.
I feel the proposed rules will in many cases make racing become more dangerous in instances of drivers loose lining horses, trying to hold the lines with both hands and whip at the same time, etc. These are things that need to be taken into consideration with the proposed rule as the safety of the drivers and horses are at stake while on the racetrack.
I am in hopes that all industry stakeholders can come to an agreement on this important issue and resolve it with a practical solution that is good for everyone.