Horse Racing

California’s ‘fair lens’ could benefit Jockeys


As part of a mandate to pass down from the governor to the commissioners he has appointed to the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), the “prism of fairness” may soon focus on the state’s equestrian colony.

Fear not, California riders: This initiative means owners of stallions you pilot to win certain classified shares could soon be forced to give You have the right to breed once if that winner becomes a stallion. It’s a practice that was once a sort of “gentleman’s deal” custom, but is believed to have never been codified in any American racing jurisdiction.

The renewed focus on fairness could also mean that the state’s riders could also experience daily weight loss in the near future.

Both items are discussed – but not voted on – in the monthly CHRB meeting on Thursday, the day after a subcommittee addressed the welfare of jockeys. introduce those topics for the first time in a public forum.

“It ties into the horse racing tradition of California, which has always had a world-renowned equestrian colony,” said Vice President Oscar Gonzales, who is an advocate for the concept of horse racing. and refine it through public comment before it reappears as an actual rule proposition.

Gonzales says attracting and retaining top riders is crucial to the health of races in the state, calling riders “the best ambassadors” of the sport.

“The other thing that I believe this has to do with fairness and equality,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales points out that to his knowledge, neither Victor Espinoza nor Mike Smith have been awarded livestock shares in the American pharoah and Evenly after their respective Triple Crown championships, although both stallions earned a Class I place in California along the way.

“So I question that fairness,” Gonzales continued. “I believe there is an inconsistency. And this board, as reform-minded as we strive to be, is always looking for differences and things that we can fix. “

Commissioner Wendy Mitchell expressed support for the concept.

“I read a press release that it was a ‘radical idea,’” Mitchell said. “And I appreciate that we are making changes; This board is going in new directions never before seen in horse racing. And we see other states and other jurisdictions following suit. “

Mitchell continued: “As for the reproductive rights of racehorses, I think [that policy] is a great idea, because it goes into the ‘fairness lens’ that every commission in the state of California is looking at policies to pass… That’s the governor’s directive. That’s what everyone is talking about and what we should consider. “

The concept of a “fairness lens” has increasingly been advocated by Governor Gavin Newsom over the past few years, whose “California for All” message emphasizes that state governments must strive to serve all citizens and promote all forms of diversity, equity and inclusion. , especially those who are marginalized in society. It covers everything from policing to road construction to public health and housing – and now horse racing too.

As commissioner Thomas Hudnut has said, one of the ways this concept applies to racing regulation is through ensuring racers are adequately compensated for the occupational risks they take.

“We really need to take a holistic approach to the whole question of racers and riders’ welfare, because relatively few riders ride horses,” says Hudnut. win bet. “It is a food chain problem of opportunistic racers, who are often underpaid and often overworked. And we also need to keep them in our sights. Because if we’re talking about the ‘prism of justice’, it’s the people who don’t usually get the short end of the stick. “

Gonzales added that the board would have a responsibility not to make decisions (like about stock farming) without understanding the broader socioeconomic impacts.

“At some point as we tackle this, we should also have a very thorough and comprehensive understanding of what the industry does to support jockey players on the one hand, and how they make a living… . Because jockey players remain important to what we do in this industry, it is time for this board to fully understand how we can support jockey players. ”

No commissioner publicly expressed opposition to the share-sharing concept during the May 19 meeting. There were no public comments for or against the idea, but that is expected to come. at the stage after an actual proposal is put before the CHRB for a vote.

At another point in the meeting, Gonzales updated the trustees on ongoing proposals to reduce the weight of racehorses more in line with 21st Century human physiology.

Right now, explains Gonzales, California gives novices 10 pounds to lose weight to incentivize trainers to hire them. But some trainers will insist on a jockey’s weight right up to the maximum allowable 10 pounds, which is a weight that some jockeys cannot easily achieve.

“The way things are now is that a beginner rider would have to weigh around 110 pounds or so, which is pretty tough these days,” Gonzales said. “This low weight threshold can be a barrier.”

Gonzales said the current scale is like that, an apprentice getting a 10-pound “error” until a 5th place win, when it drops to seven pounds. The allowance is then reduced to the year after the 40th win.

Gonzales said the likely proposed rule would instead start on a seven-pound basis, then drop to five pounds after a 10th-place win, “which could make all the difference.” huge difference,” Gonzales said.

“Usually, after a certain milestone, the public is pretty familiar with that £5 subsidy, which is really the number we should focus on,” Gonzales said. “But what we’re trying to do is remove the barrier to entry for young riders coming up.”

Additionally, Gonzales said, the CHRB is likely to consider a proposed rule that would raise the minimum weight for established riders from 112 pounds to 114 pounds and reduce the maximum weight from seven pounds. five left.

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