SBJ/June 15 - 21, 1998/No Topic Name

Six strokes and you're out

In a move to improve the public image of horse racing, New York thoroughbred horse trainers, owners and jockeys are studying a plan to limit the number of times a jockey can whip a horse, said Dennis Brida, president of the New York Horsemen's Association.

Horsemen and jockeys are considering limiting the number of whip strokes to six, Brida said. Such a rule already is in force at British tracks.

In most racing states, including New York, Kentucky and California, there are laws prohibiting "excessive whipping" but there is no limit on the number of strokes a jockey can administer during a race.

New York is considering the rule for the sake of the horses, but also to improve the public perception of horse racing, Brida said. He said a recent ballot measure in Texas related to horse racing was hurt by adverse public reaction to a commercial showing jockeys whipping their mounts down the stretch.

Meanwhile, when the National Thoroughbred Racing Association asked people about their negative attitudes toward horse racing, 12 percent of those surveyed cited "abusive treatment of horses," which was second only to gambling at 26 percent, according to Will Feltus, research consultant to the NTRA.

Brida initiated discussions on limiting whip strokes after listening to a lecture by Monty Roberts, author of the national bestseller "The Man Who Listens to Horses," and the inspiration for the novel and movie "The Horse Whisperer."

Roberts "shouted at us, 'You have to stop whipping these horses,' " Brida recalled.

Roberts wants whips eliminated entirely from racing but has said that if New York limited the number of whip strokes he "would condone it as heading in the right direction."

If the whip were eliminated, Roberts argues, more people would attend the races and fewer horses would break down — another major problem facing the sport.

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