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Darling Comments On Whipping Pilot

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Published: April 14, 2009 1:16 pm ET

Last Comment: May 10, 2009 9:19 pm ET | 25 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Leading trainer Jack Darling, who has been one of the more outspoken individuals with respect to changing our whipping rules, sent a letter to Trot Insider after observing the first weekend of races during Woodbine Racetrack's trial run under different rules.

Darling's letter, as Trot Insider received it, is listed below.

For more information on the pilot program at Woodbine, please read last week's Whipping Pilot Program At WEG story.


The developments at Woodbine this past week look encouraging and in general the drivers are to be commended but I am compelled to make one more statement on this one-handed whipping issue.

At our last meeting with the ORC there seemed to be a consensus in the room that one-handed whipping must be eliminated. The decision was made to have a two-week trial at woodbine to allow the drivers to provide input on how a new rule will be developed, which will make it a requirement that a line be kept in each hand for the entire mile.

As of Sunday I have observed a lot of these races and it is great to see no one-handed whipping. I would say about ninety percent of the finishes look good and the drivers are being responsible in putting on a classy show but I must say that a small part of it has been absolutely disgusting. I have seen some drivers throwing the lines in the air and getting a big swing with the whip. This looks terrible and drivers should know that it is exactly what we are trying to get rid of.

The other thing that bothers me is some of the drivers appear to be out of control at times flailing their arms and pushing their whips up between the horses' legs and at times it looks like they are absolutely trying to rip the horse's tail off. These actions give the appearance of a complete absence of respect for the horse.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who is disgusted and embarrassed by this. As I have said before I don't want to villanize the drivers. I just feel that we must have rules in place so that these types of things don't happen. Most of the drivers seem to understand the problem and are showing a lot of class on the track and I really respect them for that.

What this experiment shows is that to put a respectable and classy product on the track we need to have a well thought out and complete whipping rule.

Dr Ted Clarke's proposal to the ORC requires that (a) a driver must keep a line in each hand, (b) the driver's elbow must not be raised above the shoulder, (c) contact of the whip must be above the shaft and (d) the whip must not be used between the horses legs. Rules from other jurisdictions like Pompano Park and the State of Kentucky are roughly the same. Indiana's rule states that whipping must be restricted to wrist-action only.

The Maritime Provinces Harness Racing Commission has done a fantastic job and has come out with a rule that I believe is by far the best that I have seen. Here it is in its entirity.

1. During a race the driver shall hold one line in each hand by the handholds until the finish line is reached and the race is complete. Handholds must be tight ensuring adequate control of the horse with the driver's elbows in front of the chest. Whipping must be restricted to wrist action only. The placing of both lines in one hand to permit the necessary adjustment of the horses's equipment such as ear plugs removal is allowed. The driver shall not raise the elbow of the arm carrying the whip above the level of his/her shoulder.

2. There shall be no blatant or exaggerated movements of the whipping arm.

3. The driver shall ensure that any contact of the whip to the horse is above the shafts of the sulky and is not used between the horses's legs.

4. Whipping is permitted provided the horse appears to be advancing through the field. There shall be no whipping after the finish of the race.

I really like the rule that whipping must be restricted to wrist action only and I would like to see it in our rule as well. I believe this would eliminate the problem that we are seeing at times during this trial at Woodbine and make it easier for the judges.

I apologize for taking up so much space on this subject but I just feel it is so important that we implement these new whipping rule changes as soon as possible and that we do it right the first time.

We need to create a whole new generation of race fans and there is an urgency to start now. Getting this whipping rule in place will open the door to these possible new young fans. We are lucky in that most of our tracks realize this and are ready to aggressively go after them. This should be a great season of racing coming up with a tremendous array of stake races at a variety of tracks. Standardbred Canada has come out with an exciting new promotion - ADRENALINE - 'Canada's Racing Festival'. I think this is just fantastic and I congratulate Ted Smith and everyone at Standardbred Canada for coming up with this to help re-energize the sport. As Ted said "This is the dawn of a new day" and hopefully all of those young people who are standing trackside watching horse races for perhaps the first time will be happy with what they see and will become racing fans. Developements like this give us a good reason to be optimistic about the future of harness racing.

Jack Darling

p.s. As I was writing this letter I was watching the Monday night races at Woodbine. The finishes I saw were beautiful to watch. I realize that this is a substantial change for the drivers. It will naturally take a little while for them to make all the adjustments and after watching these races tonight I am very encouraged and I commend the drivers for their efforts. These are the top professionals in our sport.


May 10, 2009 - 9:19 pmHi Karen...well said my

Hi Karen...well said my dear!! I am just about to write re. the so called top drivers appauling treatment of these animals...makes you wonder why they are so successful eh? Needs more people to stand up & be counted re. the whipping rule!! So after the two week 'test' on the whipping rule, when will we see an outcome & some thing done to prevent all this britality!! Keep posting those e-mails Karen....regards Louise.

May 10, 2009 - 9:14 pmGood for you John...less

Good for you John...less use....or none is the way to go so many people think now.....total disregard & respect for the horse is so obvious with some drivers...& they know who they are John!! Keep the good driving up...regards Louise.

April 21, 2009 - 10:59 amI find it funny that all of

I find it funny that all of the people who are against the "Whipping Pilot Project" make arguments related to the track's "handle" and how much money they may lose by eliminating this practice. Although I haven't read everyone's comments on this topic, I have yet to hear a "pro whipping" argument related to the safety or well being of the horses. For those of you "pro whipping" people, hopefully someday someone buys "you" to race, and uses a whip to hit you in the back, and rake you between the legs for "encouragement".

I enjoy betting and winning races as much as anyone else, but not at the expense of an animal's health and well being.

Tilmon - Bryan Kowalchuk

April 20, 2009 - 6:12 pmHas anyone noticed the

Has anyone noticed the handle steadily decreasing since this "pilot project" has started????
To all the people who think this will better the sport and bring more fans in, the handle will speak for itself, and I personally will be moving some of my horses to the meadowlands where you can actually "race" your horse

Dennis Mavrin

April 19, 2009 - 3:07 pmI used to be a heavy duty

I used to be a heavy duty "whipper" back in the day when rawhides were used, when wrapped around the stifle area some would mistake the sound for gunshots, some horses would go a little farther but most would give up. I've grown up a little since then and have come to realize that most horses are actually giving their all and the only reason they were stopping was because i didnt rate them properly.
It will be hard to change a trend thats been going on for years, but maybe this is a positive step in the racing industy and bring back some fans who have been discusted with the old whipping policy.
I dont drive much any more, I'm 6 foot 5, weigh 220, and have won 3 of my last 4 drives without the use of the whip.

John Vukelich

April 18, 2009 - 5:41 pmNow we are getting some

Now we are getting some where, Thanks Dale. No whipping unless its my horse that's into a blind stagger 50ft from the wire going for $300 000 ; then go ahead and rip the fur off of him.

something about "hipo" and it's not the animal I'm thinking about.

P.S. to the regualr bettor who commented, thanks ver much, it would be nice to hear from more of the people in this game that really matter.

April 17, 2009 - 10:25 pmIs Jody Jamieson whipping

Is Jody Jamieson whipping between the legs of the 3 horse in the fifth race at woodbine on Friday night?Everyone i ask says yes,but there doesn't seem to be any fine!The zoom angle of the stretch drive really amplifies the punishment these horses go through.It's appalling.

Karen Sanderson

April 17, 2009 - 7:08 pmC'mon Boy "Go Faster", "You

john ulozas SAID...

C'mon Boy "Go Faster", "You can do it Boy"...chirp/chirp/chirp.......LOL, LOL.......Please go faster you musn't let the fans down.....LOL

Yikes, you must be dreaming if you think that will inspire any kind of confidence in how the sport will be run and become in time.....

Me personally, I would not and will not play any horse track be it Standardbred or Thoroughbred that has silly whipping rules such as these.......

This is not the problem with horse racing, and the tracks that implement or consider implementing such bunk will pay dearly in the long run, I think....(This is from a very long time harness bettor and lover of the sport)

If you do this, See Ya'............

John Ulozas

April 17, 2009 - 6:42 pmI will be interested to

DALE DEVINE SAID...

I will be interested to watch all of Jacks horses race this year and the drivers that are on them.The regular driver of st lads popcorn was just fined for excess whipping so one would assume a new driver must now be found for that mare.If your going to preach be sure to practice.If those in power really think that curbing whipping is going to bring back gamblers please wake-up.

April 16, 2009 - 4:15 pmto begin with i would like

to begin with i would like to say to MR DARLING i always respected you but not on this matter!dont complain about seeing lines in the air and whip between the legs or pulling the tails.some horses need to be motivated to race!!not everybody can afford to race horses to woodbine/mohawk circuit for us little horsemen who race on smaller track have cheaper/older horses who need motivation sometimes and i was in quebec years ago when they implamented that rule for a couple year and the drivers always found a way to use they're whip to me its a lot more dangerous to whip a horse with a line in your hand than without.as for the noise it makes if it makes noise its because the driver not really hit the horse its either he hit the saddle pad,the disc or the shaft thats what make noises.we already saw a final with that pilot on and 2 driver got fine and it was for just a 60000$ final i can't wait to see when they go for a million 100$ dollars fine for a driver who could made as much as 20000$ for a drive is nothing to me its the judges faults for not being tougher on those repeated offenders.fines its not always the solution but more days might be.as for mrs magee believe me no mattter how many miles you trained them or whatever else you do they are some lazy horses!!!

April 16, 2009 - 4:00 pmLynn, If you read my

Lynn,
If you read my comment again you will see that I said " that the drivers I've been watching on TV" are saying the horses are lazy, not me! I happen to agree with what you are saying, that these are some of the hardest working horses in the equine world. I've always said that if you trained Thoroughbreds the same way you trained Harness horses, there would not be any Thoroughbreds left. Back in the early 80's in Regina when they had racing, I can remember one horse that they started whipping just as they headed down the backstretch to the 3/4 and all the way to the finish. I don't agree with that any more than what Mr. Kash was described as doing in other replies. The bottom line for me is that the good drivers get the most they can out of there horses and if they can get a little more from them with the whip they use it. If it doesn't advance the horse the good ones stop the abuse. I've seen that from all the top drivers from the Meadowlands and some from Woodbine/Mohawk as well.
For me this is no different than the long gun registry in Canada. They already had laws for that that they didn't enforce and they made up the registry that cost us nothing but money with little results. All I want the judges to do is enforce the rules for whipping as they have them on the books now and see what happens. I think it'll be a start with solving the problem.

Myles Mintzler

April 16, 2009 - 10:47 amIt's all fine and dandy now

zac zacharia SAID...

It's all fine and dandy now during overnight races, but what about when stakes season is upon us and the whip has been abolished.I can see it now. The North America Cup has just concluded and the driver gets off the horse after finishing 4th and has to tell the owner that his colt could have probably won with more urging. I completely understand that horses can be overtired, sick, depressed, etc etc, but don't tell me that there is no such thing as a lazy horse. The late great Artsplace was a horse that needed that extra urging sometimes and he became one of the best in history.

Zac Zacharia

April 15, 2009 - 3:31 pmWell it's a good thing I

Well it's a good thing I didn't (Blind eye) see you doing the same thing (whipping) in Saskatoon last fall Mr Braybrook. NOT....

Myles Mintzler

April 15, 2009 - 1:24 pmPrevious blogs on this topic

Previous blogs on this topic stated very clearly that it is the "owners and trainers" who do not want this "one handed whipping stuff". One needs not to "pick" on the driving of others - YET if you don't like the way someone is driving your horse - don't put him/her down. I can think of many more drivers than the one(s) mentioned above that seem to brutalize the horse or drive in a careless manner yet they are on the sheet 8-10 times a night. Take control owners and trainers - if you don't like the way they are driving your horse; don't put them down on the sheet.

April 15, 2009 - 12:53 pmMr. Mintzler--those horses

Lynne Magee SAID...

Mr. Mintzler--those horses are likely to be tired rather than lazy. In my experience with this breed, they are the most honest, hardest workers in the equine world. When trained and managed properly with lots of miles and time put on them, they will work their hearts out for you. Take shortcuts and depend on chemicals and whipping to get them across the finish line and the horse will eventually break down--mentally and physically. These horses aren't lazy. They might be overworked, over-drugged, suffering from ulcers or other health issues, depressed, etc. but not lazy.

April 15, 2009 - 3:20 amsaturday night the judges

saturday night the judges gave jody 100 buck fine 4 not having both hands in the reins,but turned a blind eye to his whip between the horses legs.this happened in same race.ban the whip out right.no skill,just whip the horse

April 15, 2009 - 1:42 amI had a houseful of people

I had a houseful of people for a choir practice, and invited them to watch a race or two after rehearsal. The main comment made was the beating of the horses, and listen to the crack, doesn't that hurt the horse? They know I race horses, but most had never seen it done. Our public relations is directly related to how we treat our horses. Bang on, Mr. Darling. We need our show to look, and be, safe and fun to watch. For those of you with lazy horses, maybe you should try carrots!!!

Clayton Braybrook

April 14, 2009 - 7:28 pmJack Darling Check out Jody

Jack Darling

Check out Jody Jamieson in the eight race(monday),tell me he didn't put the whip between the horses legs!It wasn't his usual 8 hits between the horses legs but he did have the whip between the legs.What good is a rule if the judges aren't going to enforce it!

Karen Sanderson

April 14, 2009 - 7:07 pmWhen I worked for the

Todd Guthrie SAID...

When I worked for the Ontario Racing Commission as a judge, I thought that the whipping was out of control, and tried to get changes made then. I kept being told by several people "it's part of harness racing". "He's trying to win the race". It was a very difficult thing to try and get changed. The fact is, the public who are at the track with their kids, do not want to see or hear a horse getting hit by a whip. The "spaghetti lines" and the handholds being set back at the driver's ears are a joke. It is definately some drivers trying to get around the rule. They would have no control of a horse, if they get into trouble. I applaud all people who are involved in trying to get this rule changed. To all the drivers who are trying to change, great work! Thanks for trying! Please do not stop trying. I enjoyed your article Mr. Darling!!

April 14, 2009 - 5:52 pmI was watching the same

I was watching the same races as the above last night and I saw it completely different. For what the drivers were doing in the stretch, you may as well take the whips away. There were no horses passing each other therefore.... take the whips away. From the comments of most drivers that the majority of horses are somewhat lazy you won't see many horses getting passed in the lane unless they can go no more.

If in the example of Northfield Park below you fined that driver $500 for that incident and increased it by a like amount each succesive time, you would soon see whipping infractions decrease.

You already have Judges to enforce rules you already have. Start there!

Myles Mintzler

April 14, 2009 - 5:00 pmKudos to Jack Darling for,

Lynne Magee SAID...

Kudos to Jack Darling for, once again, having the fortitude to tell it like it is. His comments are bang on. It is great to see the majority of the drivers abiding by the new whipping rules but as Jack has mentioned, the flailing arms and reins and jabbing of the whip must be stopped as well. This new and improved style of driving looks much more professional and is definitely kinder to the horses. Now let's see the rules implemented at all Ontario racetracks!

April 14, 2009 - 4:45 pmI've watched about a dozen

I've watched about a dozen televised Woodbine races where the new rules were used. While Woodbine is the last place on earth that I would ever go to watch a live harness race, I like what I've seen so far. I am hopeful that this will carry over into the Mohawk meet which is a great place to watch live racing. Up until now, I have been unwilling to allow my grandchildren (ages 5 and 7) who love horses to attend live harness racing because of the brutality. I believe Jack Darling's comments are bang on about the need to attract new and younger fans. If these changes carry over to Mohawk there will be a least 2 new fans in the stands this summer.

April 14, 2009 - 3:41 pmI was watching HPI TV last

I was watching HPI TV last night and like Jack Darling was generally pleased by how the WEG drivers have responded to these whipping rules. There certainly is some room for improvement but I feel it is best left up to getting feedback from the trainers and drivers about what is excessive and/or necessary when the rules are finalized.

The difference in whipping was particularly noticeable when I watched the 11th race from Northfield Park last night as Woodbine finished up. Keith Kash, Jr. was the driver of #6 Gator At The Door and by my count in the last 1/4 mile whipped him 30 times mostly with tough one-handers. I don't know what rules they have in Ohio but this was a cruel punishment as the horse was flogged once he gained the lead, then when he was passed at the top of lane and as he was passed for 2nd at the finish.

We are on the right path in Ontario. Kudos to the ORC and our professional drivers and trainers for implementing this change.

April 14, 2009 - 2:56 pmi heard an interview with

ken myers SAID...

i heard an interview with john cam. about the industry, and his parting comment was IT'S ALL ABOUT " MONEY "

Ken Myers

April 14, 2009 - 2:10 pmWhat a great

What a great article....there is no getting away from it...the majority of people want to see a change in the whipping rules.....that is the ones that care enough!!??


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