HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, September 28, 2021 – We’ve not written about the New Jersey No-Whip rule because we didn’t think we needed to reiterate ad nauseum our position on doing what’s best for the Thoroughbred industry–in the long term.
While racing has done a much better job of it lately, this game is a what-have-you-done-for-me-today exercise. And neither did I want to get into a back and forth with horseplayers who somehow felt like they were being cheated out of something.
I have no problem with bettors who eschewed betting on Monmouth Park’s races because they felt as they weren’t getting enough bangs for their bucks, literally. But then isn’t racing, in its truest sense, about the horses? Shouldn’t hands and heels be enough?
Those who did wager developed their own handicapping methodology to deal with the issue. Some posited frontrunning speed had an edge because jockeys on ralliers couldn’t encourage their mounts to quicken without the use of a riding crop.
As if frontrunners couldn’t benefit from those same reminders.
But that wasn’t what was at issue. Horseplayers who speed horses faded or whose closers didn’t close only affected their horse in that race, that the same “compromising” rule wasn’t affecting the other horses in the race at the same time.
It’s the gambling business but losing bettors were–or would be–taking losing results very personally.
More than a reduced foal crop, rescheduled turf racing, smaller fields of inferior stock created by a highly competitive Mid-Atlantic racing environment, the ‘No Whip Rule’ likely was the reason for vastly lower betting handle compared to 2019’s pre-Covid meet.
There is little question that daily average handle of $3.1 million was alarming when compared to 2019’s $3.8 million, a decline of more than 17% since the New Jersey Racing Commission mandated the change prior to the start of the meet.
Along with Jersey Joe Bravo, it appears that players did stay away, especially the heavy hitters–as if racing with whips guaranteed the best horse would win. Although one could make a case that the best conditioned horse would have a real edge in whipless races.
Of course, there were other factors at play, too. Horseplayers naturally bet less at the outset of the whipless period to see if any winning trends emerged. And perhaps they never returned to their prior betting levels.
We watched a handful of races throughout the meet and assume, like many observers did, that at the end of the day it was horse racing and the best horse on the day won.
One glaring factor were that margins from first horse to last, on balance, appeared to be wider than they were pre-mandate. A cursory look at result charts seem to bear this out, though the observation is far from scientific.
Whether the ‘No Whip Rule’ will remain in effect in New Jersey may not be up to the state. The Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act is scheduled to commence in July 2022.
If, as expected, uniform rules become the law of the horse racing land, a whip-limit rule would be in place nationwide, guessing something akin to the Kentucky or California rule, or perhaps the European standard which is even more restrictive.
Then horseplayers will have only the feds to blame, an easy and familiar target. Unless, of course, democracy is replaced by autocratic rule and some religious zealot given the power will outlaw horse racing altogether. Can’t happen here? Neither could JAN 6.