Delaware to implement new six-strike riding crop policy

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: July 15, 2020 

The Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission July 15 put its support behind a new Mid-Atlantic riding crop policy that will be implemented Aug. 1 at Delaware Park and Laurel Park in Maryland.

The policy, which resulted from months of discussion among Mid-Atlantic racing stakeholders, allows for six strikes of the whip—no more than two consecutive strikes—from the quarter pole to the finish of a race. Jockeys will be able to use the crop in underhand fashion from the start of a race to the quarter pole.

The Maryland Racing Commission in June approved the new six-strike-limit policy. Other Mid-Atlantic states are expected to follow suit.

Since the 2020 meet began at Delaware Park, the current 10-strike policy devised by Maryland stewards and implemented at Laurel in January has been in effect. Delaware and Maryland share many of the same riders.

“To make it consistent we have followed the Maryland rule,” DTRC Chairman Duncan Patterson said. “It has been fairly well accomplished. I recommend this not go through the (formal) rule-making process at this time. It’s an evolving thing, and it could change again.”

Delaware Park stewards said they are fine with enforcing the new policy. Former jockey Bill Troilo, a steward at Delaware Park, said riders have signed waivers showing they acknowledge and understand the current 10-strike policy, and that the same would be done for the new six-strike policy.

Steward Robert Colton, also a former rider, said uniform policies in the region are beneficial. “Jockeys go back and forth (between Maryland and Delaware), and we want them to be comfortable with it.”

However, it was noted that the customary cross-state travel by many jockeys in the region will be slowed given the latest restrictions related to COVID-19 mitigation. The New York Racing Association, for the Saratoga Race Course meet that begins July 16, is basically containing its riding colony, and the Maryland Jockey Club effective July 17 stated that any jockey who rides out of town will be subject to a 14-day quarantine and must produce a negative COVID-19 test. Other states have implemented similar policies as well.

On July 11, Delaware Handicap day, a few jockeys who had competed at Keeneland were segregated from the regular Delaware Park riding colony after local jockeys expressed concerns about COVID-19. Kevin DeLucia, Senior Vice President of Racing and Finance at Delaware Park, said officials researched the situation and made a decision to allow them to ride but kept them apart from the local colony.

After further discussion about a policy that could limit any rider—even those from neighboring states—from coming to Delaware, the jockeys opted to leave current procedures in place, DeLucia said. It was noted that with multiple states enacting COVID-19 restrictions on jockeys, there would be far fewer riders shipping to Delaware Park “by default.”

Delaware Park this week began racing four programs per week instead of three.

In other DTRC business, Delaware Park officials said they will work with the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association to quickly resolve a financial situation that has developed because of backlogs at Truesdail Laboratories, the state’s equine drug-testing lab. In Delaware, purses aren’t paid until drug tests clear, so a waiver is being sought for the time being.

“There is a major delay in testing results,” DTHA Executive Director Bessie Gruwell said. “Only two days of purses have been released since we started racing (June 16). We are looking at five to six weeks out on getting test results for these races. We need to get this money into the owners’ and trainers’ hands.”

Patterson said he spoke with an official at Truesdail and was told the lab was short-staffed and had an issue with a piece of testing equipment. He said the receipt of test results “has been fairly prompt for the past four years,” and it’s possible the lab will eliminate its backlog in roughly one week.

(Photo courtesy of Jim McCue)