After almost a decade of efforts to legislatively reform the U.S. horse racing industry at the federal level, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) has claimed victory. The passage of the bill marks a historic moment for U.S. racing, which will protect racehorses from doping abuse and improve racetrack safety standards across the nation.
The bicameral and bipartisan legislation, H.R.1754 and S.4547, was supported by almost 300 cosponsors in the House and Senate. Leading the bill in the House of Representatives were Congressmen Andy Barr (R-KY) and Paul Tonko (D-NY). Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were the lead sponsors in the U.S. Senate.
The House approved H.R.1754 by voice vote in September 2020. It was then passed to the Senate where it was approved to be included in the massive final FY21 spending package. The bill was officially signed into federal law by the President on Sunday evening, December 27th.
By law, the latest HISA can go into effect is July 1, 2022. The first step is the finalization of the "Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority", comprised of nine board positions. Five of the members will be independent seats and four seats will represent the racing industry. Two standing committees will also be established; an anti-doping and medication control committee and a racetrack safety committee. The chair of the anti-doping and medication control committee will be an independent member and the chair of the safety committee will be an industry member.
The Authority is tasked with proposing rules, which then needs to be approved by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC will review programs developed by the Authority, and once ratified, they will go into effect.
With the FTC acting as the umbrella agency for HISA, all proposed rules will require a period for public comment. This opportunity is important, especially as the rules may include the restriction of the use of the riding crop, which would fall within the in-race and workout safety category. As with doping, horse whipping regulations currently vary across state lines.
The passage of HISA truly marks a new era for U.S. racing, so please stay tuned for further alerts as proposed rules may be offered as early as the first quarter of 2021.
Jockeys competing in California won’t be allowed to strike a horse more than six times during a race, and then only in an underhanded position, according to a new rule approved by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB).
Representatives from the Jockeys’ Guild, plus California riders Mike Smith and Aaron Gryder, repeatedly advocated for the board to wait at least one more month before voting on the rule to allow more time for a proposed national whip standards rule to come to fruition.
But in a contentious meeting that stretched nearly seven hours, CHRB chairman Gregory Ferraro, DVM, spearheaded the push to once and for all settle the whip rule based on the rationale that he believes no such national standard is actually forthcoming, and that California should be a leader and not a follower when it comes to reforming how racehorses are treated.
“I don’t believe you’re going to see a national rule,” Ferraro said. “I would like a national rule, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. It’s definitely not going to happen with any speed at all. It could be years. This board has a mandate from the governor to make reforms in racing that contribute to the welfare of the horse. We’ve been talking about this crop rule for two years. I think it’s time to stop procrastinating and pass a rule. We have a good rule. We worked hard on it.
“The rule is not based on what’s best for the situation. It’s based on perception,” Gusman said. “You’re going to end racing in California. It’s just going to happen if you go down this road of trying to regulate perception rather than reality.”
In addition to the above-mentioned restrictions, the newly amended version of CHRB Rule 1688 will also prohibit the use of the riding crop during morning training and after the finish of races. According to the CHRB meeting information packet, the correct uses of the riding crop will now include “showing or waving the crop without touching the horse…and tapping the horse on the shoulder with the crop in the down position.”
The new rule will also establish “a maximum fine of $1,000 and minimum suspension of three days for riding in a manner contrary to the rule.” There will be no penalty if the stewards determine that the use of the riding crop was “necessary for the safety of the horse or rider.”
Terence Meyocks, the president and chief executive officer of the Jockeys’ Guild, noted that work is progressing in other jurisdictions, particularly among a coalition of mid-Atlantic region tracks, to come up with a standardized version of whipping rules that have been crafted with the input of riders in mind. He explained that he would like to see California on board with any proposed rule that might result from those multi-party discussions in the next few weeks.
“The Jockeys’ Guild and riders today need a national rule,” Meyocks said. “I think we’re so much closer to a national rule in the United States, and I think that this is our best chance. It’s the Guild’s request at this time to ask for an extension of no more than four to six weeks to see if we can reach an agreement on the riding crop in the United States.”
But Scott Chaney, the CHRB’s new executive director, told commissioners before the vote that he didn’t buy that line of reasoning. “This idea about a national standard is not a ‘thing.’ It just doesn’t exist,” Chaney said. “I guess maybe we’re talking about some agreement between the Jockeys’ Guild and the safety coalition. But that’s not a national standard. That’s just an idea that a sub-group of the country has. It would require every other state to pass a rule, which just is not going to happen.”
Now that the new whipping rules have been passed, the CHRB must submit the proper paperwork to the state Office of Administrative Law, which will review the technical details, possibly in time for an effective date of Oct. 1.
MONTH / yEAR