Smith takes CHRB to task

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California’s new whip restrictions went into effect Oct. 1 and it didn’t take long for Santa Anita-based Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith to make his concerns known to the California Horse Racing Board.

The new restrictions limit jockeys to six strikes of the whip during a race, no more than twice in succession before waiting for a response from the horse. The restrictions also require the jockeys to use the whip in an underhanded position with the crop always at or below the shoulder level of the jockey.

After riding with the new rules the weekend of Oct. 2-4 at Santa Anita, Smith wrote a letter to the CHRB dated Oct. 8.

“After the jockeys have attempted to comply with CHRB 1688 this weekend, our concerns have been reiterated and we strongly believe that more than one of us will suffer a serious injury, or even possibly death, from your new rule 1688,” wrote Smith. “The reality is we are very alarmed about the lack of concern for our safety and well-being. 

“Furthermore, not only do we have a concern for our own welfare, but also grave concerns about the risks being created for the horses.”

Smith noted the jockeys have attempted to participate in the rule making process, but “for whatever reason, our concerns are not being given credence … we are the people who are risking our lives, balancing on the balls of our feet, in a very narrow stirrup, going 35-50 miles per hour on a 1,200-pound horse, surrounded by other jockeys who are doing the same thing.”

Smith pointed out that the recently redesigned whips, which were developed with input from jockeys, are safer for the horses.

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“Over the past 10 years, when the approved cushioned riding crops were used in the appropriate manner, the welts and cuts have almost been completely eliminated,” wrote Smith.

One of the most important points made by Smith was in reference to horseplayers and horse owners.

“In addition to the increased dangers, there has also been a serious impact on the integrity and outcome of the races. In multiple races over the weekend (Oct. 2-4), jockeys were limited in the encouragement they were able to give the horses, which in turn impacted the outcome of the race and jockeys were unable to maximize placing of the horses. 

“The owners, along with the betting public, both of whom are the driving force behind our sport, were not afforded every possible opportunity to maximize return on their investment,” Smith added.  

The CHRB, including Executive Director Scott Chaney, should take these concerns from Smith into consideration.  After all, if the CHRB loses the trust of the horseplayers, handle will drop, which will cause purses to drop, and in turn will force horses and horsemen to leave for greener pastures. California is already at critically low levels when it comes to the horse population.

So far there has been no public response from the CHRB to Smith’s concerns.

Closing week

Keeneland’s closing day is Saturday, with mandatory payouts in all pools. Kentucky racing shifts to Churchill Downs Sunday, where an impasse remains with Nevada and no wagering will be allowed on the Churchill signal. 

Racing will be conducted on a Wednesday thru Sunday basis Oct. 28 through Nov. 1, and Churchill will also race Wednesday and Thursday Nov. 4-5 before the Breeders’ Cup is held at Keeneland Nov. 6-7.

This is also closing weekend at Santa Anita, with mandatory payouts in all pools Sunday. Racing in Southern California shifts to Del Mar when their fall meet opens Saturday, Oct. 31. 

Canadian Triple Crown on line 

A home-bred colt with just one eye – Mighty Heart – has a chance to capture the Canadian Triple Crown if he can win the $400,000 Breeders’ Stakes Saturday at Woodbine.

Mighty Heart wired the field in the Queen’s Plate over the synthetic Tapeta track at Woodbine  Sept. 12, and came right back to win the Prince of Wales Stakes on dirt at Fort Erie Sept. 29.

The Breeders’ Stakes is contested at 1 1/2 miles on turf and with a win Mighty Heart would just be the eighth horse to win the Canadian Triple Crown. He is trained by Josie Carroll for owner/breeder Lawrence Cordes and will once again by ridden by Daisuke Fukumoto.

Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Santa Anita Friday, Race 5: N.K. Rocket Man (No. 6). Cal-bred was compromised by rough start and traffic trouble in the stretch when splitting a similar field Oct. 2. He takes off the blinkers and should have clear sailing this time from an outside post.  

About the Author

Jon Lindo

Jon Lindo is a syndicated handicapper, long-time thoroughbred owner, and publisher of the Lindo Report. Jon is also a regular contributor to Race Day Las Vegas Radio show on KSHP 1400 in Las Vegas and Thoroughbred Los Angeles Radio show, heard in Las Vegas at thoroughbredla.com.

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