The most recent three racing dates at Woodbine completed the track’s unique pilot project for new urging rules. The new rules state that a jockey cannot strike a horse with the whip in the cocked position and can only strike with the whip in the underhanded position. Also, the rider cannot hit the horse in the belly or flank area. These new rules, presented by Woodbine and the AGCO and HBPA of Ontario go hand-in-hand with the current rules of only three consecutive whips before allowing a horse to respond and the whip cannot be brought over the rider’s shoulder.

Canadian Thoroughbred reported on the first day of the pilot project, which is to run through the end of the Woodbine season. You can find that first story below.

Reaction to the new rules were generally positive but certainly, from a rider’s perspective, it is a style that is going to take some getting used to. Veteran rider Gary Boulanger in his comments on Friday noted that young riders are taught to cock, or ‘spin’ the whip over and riding that way over thousands of races means much practice will be needed to adjust to the new style.

Woodbine is the only track experimenting with underhanded whipping and this move can be seen as a major move forward in protecting the public appearance of horse racing, which has been been rocked by dozens of terrible incidents in 2019.

Indeed, as mentioned by Ray Paulick on Sunday afternoon when a fifth horse broke down at Keeneland, which has a very short fall racing meeting, most racing jurisdictions have not helped horse racing’s public perception.

Paulick said in on Twitter about Call to Victory’s breakdown at Keeneland : 5th fatality in 13 days of fall racing; 9th from 29 days including spring meet. Today’s and 2 others in fall occurred on turf course; 2 on dirt. Highest number in previous 10 years for spring/fall meets was 5.

The shocking story out of Mountaineer Park in West Virginia and that track’s unwillingness to discuss it has yet to be confirmed but a report (with photos) showed the mare Bridget Moloney in a landfill site near the track after she had broken down last week. It seems as if no necropsy or study of the mare’s injuries were done, she was just shipped off the track. Bill Finley discusses that incident in his report below.

Santa Anita continues to be plagued by breakdowns as the biggest two days in horse racing draw near; the Breeders’ Cup races are on Nov. 1 and 2 at the California track. ON Saturday at Far Hills, the millionaire Wicklow Brave, age 10, fell in a hurdle race and broke his shoulder (read more below).

There have been many more in recent months, some apparently still under investigation – Canadian bred Glencairn coming off a farm to race at Delaware Park in August. This was the Safety Steward report from that race:

” In Monday’s 6th race the horse Glencairn trained by Anthony Pecoraro broke down less than a furlong after the start of the race into the clubhouse turn and was pulled up by jockey Julio Correa. The horse was vanned off to his own barn but after inspection by Mr. Pecoraro’s private veterinarian the horse was euthanized. The post mortem indicates a severe sesamoid fracture.

I met with Mr. Pecoraro later in the week and he indicated that the horse had been mostly training on a farm called Alpha Omega where he was jogging and swimming because he had ankle problems and they didn’t think the horse could handle the everyday training at the racetrack. It turns out the horse couldn’t handle racing either. Mr. Pecoraro assured me that the horse’s ankles were X-rayed several times for any sign of fractures and it didn’t show anything. I’m just not convinced that training a horse on a farm under someone else’s supervision and then shipping the horse in a few days before the race and running him is a proper way to operate. That horse was away from Mr. Pecoraro’s supervision a whole 2 weeks before it ran.”

One incident that did not get any coverage was the death of  CROWN THE KITTEN, an earner of over $400,000. This 7-year-old by Kitten’s Joy, a stakes winner in 2014, was a hard knocker who began sliding down the claiming ladder this year. He won at Del Mar for $12,500 claiming on August 7 and was claimed. The claim was voided, however, as the horse was lame and he was put on the Del Mar vet’s list.

Just over 3 weeks later the gelding popped up in the entries at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg for the Gold Cup Stakes for one of the leading trainers Juan Silva, who told Canadian Thoroughbred he had obtained the horse from Del Mar and brought him north to race.

As Assiniboia does not recognize other track’s vet lists, according to one of the stewards interviewed there, the horse was allowed to race. He collapsed after the race and died.

Woodbine, the AGCO and HBPA have raised the bar with this urging rules experiment. Most industry members agree that they, in addition to the public, do not want to see flailing whips on horses in racing anymore.

There is a two week ‘grace’ period as the Woodbine jockey colony adjusts to the change and certainly there is going to be a large learning curve. Luis Contreras, who won the Bunty Lawless Stakes on Sunday at Woodbine on Cooler Mike, noted after the race in an interview on air that he was not able to ride his horse the way he wanted to late in the race (Cooler Mike was lugging in) due to the new rule of only underhanded whipping. This interview was not made available on the YouTube replay channel for Woodbine.

Bill Finley’s column and other news links are below:

Report from Day 1 of Pilot Project:

Bill Finley at TDN:

Wicklow Brave –