Thomassin On Quebec's New Whip Rules

Published: May 9, 2019 10:32 am EDT

Last Sunday afternoon the Quebec Jockey Club hosted opening day for the harness racing season in Quebec at the Hippodrome 3R racetrack. Mother Nature cooperated with beautiful sunny skies, dry and warming temperatures.

Despite some last-minute fenagling, the new whipping rules were adhered to without a hitch. In fact, driver Stephane Gendron seemed to make fun of the new rule as he drove five winners during the afternoon program and barely lifted his whip in all five victories.

Designed by management at the Quebec Jockey Club (QJC) and agreed with by the local horsepeople, the new whipping rules call for drivers to keep both hands in the handholds at all times. Drivers must limit the use of the whip at all times while on the racetrack.

Drivers can never reach back to whip a horse. All whipping movement must be done from the wrist. The forearm must remain must be parallel to the track when the whip is used.

These rules were presented to the Quebec Racing Commission, who oversees the judges that work at the track. They came back and said they could not administer them and that the QJC could not, on their own, come up with and administer penalties on horsepeople.

“We were so excited about having the new rules in place,” said Murielle Thomassin, the general manager of racing at Hippodrome 3R. “We wanted everything in place for opening day and now this problem. Luckily, we were able to circumvent the situation and have the new rules in place and also be in compliance with the Quebec Racing Commission.”

The QJC saw that the Quebec Government rules towards animal abuse fell in line with the new whipping rules they had designed and that they could still have the new rules put in place and not supersede the Quebec Racing Commission’s jurisdiction.

“It took quite a bit of work,” Thomassin explained. “Including getting every single driver competing in the races last Sunday to sign off on a document that they totally understood and would abide by the new whipping conditions. Every driver signed off on them.

“The Quebec Government rules for animal abuse are much more severe than that of the Quebec Racing Commission,” Thomassin added. “Now, if a race fan or a racetrack manager wishes to file an animal abuse charge against one of the drivers for improper use of the whip, the government in Quebec will launch an investigation and if found guilty, that horseman will face a criminal charge and the fines that go with it, not just a fine or suspension from the judges.”

Every driver that now competes at the Hippodrome 3R must sign the agreement in order to drive.

“The important issue here is being in compliance with both the Quebec Government rules and the Quebec Racing Commission,” said Thomassin. “We had thousands of race fans come out last Sunday for opening day, they watched and wagered on our ten races and enjoyed a great return of live racing in Quebec. There were no issues with excessive use of the whip by our drivers. Our horsemen agreed to the new rules and we should be fine moving forward.”

(Quebec Jockey Club)