Hambletonian Day at the Meadowlands has long been considered the greatest day in harness racing and our sport's finest showcase.
Meadowlands chairman/CEO Jeffrey Gural and COO/general manager Jason M. Settlemoir have received many complaints from both inside and outside of the United States regarding what was considered beyond acceptable standards of whipping during the afternoon of racing, including in the Hambletonian final heat race itself. The complaints resurfaced during the World Trotting Conference in Prince Edward Island among many European spectators.
After carefully reviewing the afternoon's races, both Mr. Gural and Mr. Settlemoir felt it is necessary to state the importance of the drivers adhering to the whipping rule at the Meadowlands and how abuse or overuse of the whip and kicking will not be tolerated.
"While we understand the emotion and importance of these races, we must not forget that these are animals and many spectators watching our nationally broadcast race card were appalled at the use of the whip by a few on Hambletonian Day afternoon. We have stricter rules in place for a reason at our properties. When it comes to overuse of the whip and kicking, we will not tolerate either," said COO/GM Settlemoir.
Chairman and CEO Gural went on to say, "What was a great day of racing was marred by overuse of the whip. We simply will not tolerate it! We have spoken with the drivers who we believe violated the rules and reiterated to them what we expect. We will not tolerate abuse with the whip, kicking or nudging...whatever you want to call it.
"There will be one warning given along with the conventional penalty for violating the whipping policy the first time. If there is a second occurrence, the offender can expect not only a stiffer penalty but will be subject to formal notice of a year's house barring at my three properties. Let this serve as a final notice we will not allow this to become the norm and we stand ready to take action ourselves at my properties," Gural continued. "These guys know the rules and what we expect from them on the track; we have met more than once where we emphasized what we expect. I am not happy but after talking to these individuals I think/hope they get it."
The New Meadowlands Racetrack whipping rule is below:
New Meadowlands Racetrack Whipping Rule
**Drivers shall comply with the rules of the New Jersey Racing Commission (NJRC), and all drivers through their horsemen's organization agree with the racetrack that it shall be necessary to use the whip in compliance with these additional standards at New Meadowlands Racetrack:
**The use of the whip shall be confined to the areas above and between the sulky shafts. The one handed use of the whip shall be limited to the striking of the shafts of the sulky or the saddle pad.
**Using the whip in a one handed striking motion when, in the opinion of the judges, it does not appear that the horse is advancing its position in the race or is not in contention.
**Any blatant or exaggerated movements of the whipping arm which will result from raising the elbow above the driver's shoulder height or allowing the hand holding the whip to reach behind the driver while striking with the whip.
**Whipping under the arch or shafts of the sulky, using the whip as a goading or poking device, or placing the whip between the legs of the horse.
**Whipping after the finish of the race.
**Causing visible injury to the horse by leaving welts, cuts or other marks resulting from the use of the whip.
**Using the whip in such a manner as to cause interference or confusion to any other horse or driver in the race.
**Excessive use of the whip is prohibited and one handed whipping is restricted as follows:
**Drivers are prohibited from using the whip in a one handed striking motion from the start of the race until the horse reaches the 1/4 mile pole.
**From the 1/4 mile pole until the horse reaches the 7/8 mile pole, the driver may strike the shaft of the sulky or saddle pad in a one handed motion for a maximum of 3 strikes, but must pause after each strike (NO REPETITIVE WHIPPING)
**Once the horse has reached the 7/8 mile pole, the driver may, in a one handed motion, strike the shaft of the sulky or the saddle pad in a reasonable and responsible manner (approximately 6 to 8 strikes) but must pause after 2 strikes (NO REPETITIVE WHIPPING FOR MORE THAN 2 STRIKES)
**The terms "striking the horse" or "one handed striking motion" shall not be construed as to mean a light tapping with the whip, at any point in the race, while maintaining a line in each hand.