NJRC proposes rules on mandatory necropsies, whip use

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Oct. 24, 2019

The New Jersey Racing Commission Oct. 23 announced several proposed rule changes, including mandatory necropsies, a ban on use of the whip in Thoroughbred racing except in the case of emergencies, and authorization of the NJRC to cancel or postpone races for safety reasons.

The NJRC took the action at a special meeting. A release on the changes came from the Office of Attorney General, under which the racing commission falls.

Mandatory necropsies are part of the broad Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan to Reduce Equine Fatalities. The New Jersey rule specifies reporting and other protocols when a racehorse dies at a track of off-track training center for Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing.

The rule requires that, within 48 hours of a horse’s death, the horse’s trainer or custodian must file a completed equine fatality report with the NJRC State Steward or Chief State Veterinarian. The rule would also require that any necropsy be conducted by a qualified veterinarian at a facility designated by the NJRC.

The rule would apply for any equine fatality that occurs at a racetrack during training or racing, or within one hour after training or racing. The attending veterinarian would be required to certify the horse’s cause of death and submit records to the State Steward describing all drugs, medications and other treatments administered to the horse within the prior 30 days. Removal of the remains without the written consent of the State Steward or Chief State Veterinarian is prohibited.

Under the proposed Thoroughbred whip rule, “when used in an emergency by jockeys or exercise riders trying to control a horse and prevent injury, only the ‘soft tube portion’ of the riding crop could be applied, and only to the horse’s shoulders or hind quarters.” The rule would prohibit use of any part of the riding crop on a horse’s head or flanks.

The proposed rule also specifies legal limits for the length, diameter and weight of the riding crop, as well as other characteristics: The grip would have to be smooth, with no protrusions or raised surfaces, and the shaft would have to be covered by shock-absorbing material.

The Thoroughbred rule, as well as a proposed Standardbred whip rule, would require post-race visual inspections of horses to ensure no evidence of injury from excessive whipping.

The proposed cancellation rules, which apparently stem from a situation on Haskell Day at Monmouth Park in July, would grant the NJRC “explicit authority to cancel or postpone horse races when conditions posed an imminent risk.” If a racetrack decided to move forward with racing during extreme weather conditions, the NJRC Executive Director would make the call on whether to cancel or postpone racing and could consult with other industry stakeholders before making a decision.

“We’re excited about these reforms because they’ll go a long way toward making horse racing safer here in New Jersey while at the same time preserving the sport’s rich tradition and enhancing fan appeal,” NJRC Executive Director Judith Nason said. “At the racing commission we are committed to ensuring the horses are treated humanely, and to protecting the safety of all racing participants.”

(Monmouth Park photo by Tom LaMarra)