Monmouth gets OK from NJRC to waive restrictive crop rule

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: April 24, 2022

The New Jersey Racing Commission April 22 granted a request by Monmouth Park to waive the state’s no-strikes riding crop rule and begin its meet May 7 with the six-strike rule mandated under the Horseracing Safety and Integrity Authority regulations that take effect July 1.

The no-crop rule caused a stir in the industry when it took effect for the 2021 Monmouth meet. Monmouth officials said the request for the waiver was made to ensure continuity of rules for the meet that begins May 7.

From May 7-June 30, Monmouth will operate under a “house rule.” Given state law, the stewards will not handle any infractions during that period; three racing officials and Racing Secretary John Heims will handle it.

“We are grateful to the New Jersey Racing Commission members for giving up their time to hold a special meeting on an issue that is important to the entire industry,” said Dennis Drazin, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Darby Development, which operates Monmouth on behalf of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. “The commission recognized that uniformity on crop rules is paramount to our success and to the integrity of our product. The wagering public and our fans will benefit knowing we are once again operating under the same rules as other racetracks.”

The HISA rule allows six strikes per race, with no more than two in succession, before a horse has a chance to respond. There is no limit on underhanded strikes. The rule is largely in effect at regional tracks under the Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan to Reduce Equine Fatalities.

NJRC Executive Director Judith Nason noted that a court had upheld New Jersey’s stringent rule after an appeal by the Jockeys’ Guild, and that The Jockey Club through its Thoroughbred Safety Committee supported the no-strikes crop rule. Nason said the NJRC had received in a day or so about 80 calls from “concerned persons” about the then-proposed waiver.

Members of the NJRC were asked to vote on whether the rule waiver would benefit the horse racing industry as a whole. The vote was 5-1 in favor of the waiver. Under the rule in place in 2021, crops were only allowed to be used for safety reasons.

Penalties for jockeys in violation of the crop house rule are as follows: A $500 fine, loss of purse earnings and a three-day suspension for the first offense; a $2,000 fine, loss of purse earnings and a seven-day suspension for a second offense; and a $5,000 fine, loss of purse earnings and dismissal from the grounds for a third offense. During the NJRC meeting, it was stated that the new crop rule also applies to exercise riders but there are separate penalties.

(Photo courtesy of Jim McCue)