Misuse Of The Whip Can Leave A Welt On The Sport

POSTED ON  |  08-08-2018

Whip use
“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart wrote those now-famous words – “I know it when I see it” – in 1964 when the court determined that an Ohio man was wrongly convicted under a state obscenity law for showing what local officials said was hard-core pornography at a movie theater.

Horse racing stewards in Iowa must apply that same standard – “I know it when I see it” – when considering what constitutes a jockey's “excessive or indiscriminate” use of the whip or riding crop during a race.

Earlier this week, Ralph D'Amico, Rick Evans and Rick Sackett – the three stewards at Prairie Meadows – determined that the track's leading rider, Ramon Vazquez, went over the line in using the crop 48 times (by their count) in the final 3 ½ furlongs in a mile and 70-yard allowance/optional claiming race on Aug. 3.

The horse, Underpressure, finished second by a neck as the 9-10 favorite for trainer Chris Richard and owner Mallory Greiner. Vazquez was fined $1,000. In their ruling, the stewards noted that Vazquez “has had several violations at Prairie Meadows in recent history for excessive or indiscriminate whipping of his horse during a race.”

Iowa rule 491 IAC 10.5(2)”j”(4) states simply: “Whip prohibited. Jockeys may not use a whip on a two-year-old horse before April 1 of each year, nor shall a jockey or other person engage in excessive or indiscriminate whipping of any horse at any time.”

I asked state steward D'Amico how “excessive or indiscriminate” are defined. Is there a magic number when a jockey goes from being “aggressive” to “excessive”?

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