Just Three Times, Thanks

Hi there, it’s been a while! Not that I’ve had THAT many things to say that couldn’t be sufficiently be handled by Twitter, but something did catch my eye this week and I wanted to look into it further.

You may have noticed Santa Anita’s announcement mid-week that will institute a new house rule modeled on European racing that restricts use of the whip to three consecutive hits.

“It’s one-two-three, then they’d have to push on them or switch sticks but not keep hitting on them,” Haire said. “It’s all about encouragement. We don’t feel we have a problem. But we don’t think hitting a horse repeatedly, without waiting for a response from the horse, is acceptable.”

Those of you read my first incarnation as a blogger at Green but Game may remember that I detest over-whipping AND, would love to see more clear, restrictive rules about whip usage, and perhaps more importantly, actual enforcement of those rules.

So, I thought this was great, but something in the quoted statement jumped out at me: the “we don’t feel we have a problem” bit. In this day and age where people who speak publicly for groups or companies seem to say whatever they hell they please regardless of how closely it matches up to the truth, I thought it might be fun to test the voracity of that statement. And hey, now that summer racing is over I’m less likely to be handicapping on Friday evening, at least for a little while.

My very unscientific test with an ridiculously small sample size went something like this:

1. Go to YouTube
2. Search Santa Anita 2014
3. Watch several videos and note whip usage
4. Remember that it will be easier to find replays to review by going directly to Santa Anita’s YouTube page
5. Repeat step 3
6. Remember to mention that it’s GREAT that Santa Anita puts their stakes races on YouTube (and in HD!)… thank you Santa Anita!

So, here are my findings…

Santa Anita Derby
Kent D hits Dublin Up six times

Santa Anita Handicap
Looks like Gryder hits Blingo four or five times (hard to tell)

Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Talamo hits Clubhouse Ride four times at the top of the stretch, then hits him three times, pauses a few beats and repeats a couple of times:

Santa Anita Oaks
Looks like everyone stayed within the three hit limit here

Tokyo City Handicap
Espinoza hits Ever Rider six times, pauses and then hits him three more times

Royal Heroine
Looks like everyone is within the three hit limit here

Senorita Stakes
Looks like everyone is within the three hit limit here

Las Virgenes
Martin Garcia hits Streaming five times, then “scrubs” or show her the whip, but might have also hit hit her too

A few interesting notes…

For the most part, this incredibly tiny random sample of only high profile graded stakes races seems to validate that there’s “not a problem” but 1) the replays don’t always show the entire field and 5 out of 8 of this random sample did show a rider going beyond the three consecutive hit limit. So, it does happen.

Maybe even more interesting to me is that the riders barely hit the female horses in this sample with the exception of Garcia on Streaming in the Las Virgenes. I know I don’t have comments enabled here but I would love to hear any thoughts or observations on this especially from any Cali readers (you can hit me up via @exactamundo or @superterrific).

So, there you have it, my Friday night voracity-testing results. Will this new “perception enhancing” rule be enforced? Hopefully. If not, I might be back to bitch about it!

Update 9/22: It looks like we’ll have to wait for a CHRB vote on 11/20 for this to (potentially!) take effect.

Update 11/19: It’s back on, this time statewide! Stay tuned…