ELMONT, N.Y. – Jockeys at Belmont Park this week began testing padded crops designed to be gentler on horses, with the goal of fully implementing the new equipment by the start of The New York Racing Association, Inc.’s six-week Saratoga meeting on July 29.

Changes to the design of the crop include a new maximum length of 30 inches and maximum weight of eight ounces. The “popper” – the end of the crop that touches the horse – has been lengthened to seven inches and cushioned to absorb shock.

“They are softer than the regular [crops] and it’s definitely not as hard on the horses,” said jockey John Velazquez. “I rode with them at Keeneland and you just have to get used to the feeling – it’s a little bit lighter than my other [crop].”

The cushioned crops are recommended in the safety guidelines issued by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Safety and Integrity Alliance and conform to new guidelines developed by the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI). Belmont Park was fully-accredited by the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance on May 29, with NYRA’s Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga Race Course expected to be certified later this year.

A full explanation of the new crop specifications can be found in the ARCI Model Rules (rule 010-035), available online at: http://www.arci.com/modelrules.html