Whipping to be limited in California horse races

ARCADIA, Calif. (KABC) -- Horse racing fans in California may soon see less whipping during races.

The California Horse Racing Board voted unanimously to restrict the use of riding crops during its meeting Thursday.

The move echoes restrictions announced earlier this month by The Stronach Group, which owns Arcadia's Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields in Northern California.

The proposed change will ban jockeys from using riding crops to spur horses to run faster. It will only let them use a crop for corrective safety reasons.

Jockeys could be fined or suspended if track officials determine they used the whips incorrectly.

The riding crop rule will not go into effect immediately. California law requires a 45-day public comment.

The rule change comes after 22 horses died at Santa Anita in the first three months of this racing season. In response, Santa Anita's ownership suspended racing.

At Thursday's meeting, the horse racing board spent hours going over various proposals and hearing how the horse racing industry, as well as the public, feel about them.

"The one thing we know is that the riding crop or any use of the riding crop was not implicated in any of the circumstances under which horses died at Santa Anita," said Tom Kennedy, an attorney for the Jockey's Guild.

"The racing industry is constantly talking about improving its image to the public," said Kathy Guillermo of PETA. "You can't do that if you keep whipping horses that supposedly love to run."

Racing board members warn that their sport's survival rests more in the public's hands than those of the owners, breeders and fans.

"This is all about the horse," said board member Madeline Auerbach. "And when we take care of the horse we take care of the jockey. And when we take care of the jockey, we take care of the horse, the jockey and the industry."

In the meantime, Santa Anita Park officials say they will restart racing on Friday. The track's big event, the Santa Anita Derby, is back on schedule for April 6.
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