STUART S. JANNEY III: Now I would like to introduce Dennis Madsen. Dennis is joining us from Sweden, where he is the head of the Swedish Horseracing Authority.
Recently Sweden imposed new crop rules, and Dennis is going to tell us how things are going. Thank you for being here, Dennis.
DENNIS MADSEN: Thank you, Stuart. Thank you for having me. Iím very happy Iím able to share my thoughts on the Swedish crop rules and the Scandinavian crop rules here today. Let me just give a brief view of Scandinaviaís position in Europe. For those of you who donít know it, itís the northern part of Europe. The racing is a mixture of turf and dirt racing. I would say itís the most American style racing you could find in Europe.
Some tracks are entirely turf, like Copenhagen and Gothenburg. We have one entire dirt track in Malmoe, and combined tracks in Oslo, the capitol of Norway, and Stockholm, the capitol of Sweden.
The jockey colony is the same in all three countries. There is only one hour between the three capitols with a flight, so it makes it easy to travel on race day back and forth the same day. Many trainers would also run their horses in all three countries during a season.
So this is just to give you some idea about horse population in Sweden and in Scandinavia. About 1,400 horses are in training at the moment. In Sweden we have about one third of all horses in the races are guest horses, so we need each other in Scandinavia, and thatís why we work so much together.
When it comes to betting on a race day in Sweden, about 40% to 50% of the turnover comes from Denmark and Norway.
Letís have a look at the history of crop use. Back in 1976, itís a long time ago, use of crop was forbidden by law in Norway. The change came about due to lengthy pressure from animal rights organizations, and it was accepted by harness racing.
Jockeys objected and were allowed to carry the whip during a race. During the 90s, Sweden went from 10 strikes it five strikes. But the real difference, the real change came in 2009 in Norway. The Norwegian Association took away the crop. They removed it entirely after a period of 30 years where they didnít have any dangerous incidents related to the crop. So at the same time, Denmark and Sweden moved on and went from five strokes to three strokes.
The rules were adjusted in 2011, and we account now for a tap on the shoulder, as well as no use of the crop in 2-year-old races and hurdle and steeplechase races. Most then went fine for the period where the changes were to strengthen the deterrent for crop use through harder penalties for jockeys in breach of the rules.
In the end, a jockey in breach of the crop rules would lose 50 to 75% of his earnings in the race, plus a lengthy suspension if he misused the crop.
So it all went fine until a harness driver in 2021 was prohibited by civil authorities to carry a crop during race driving. A few jockeys at the same point were reported for animal abuse as the crop has left marks on the horses during racing, and that escalated the work with crop rules.
So eventually, in April 2022, no crop use is allowed in all Scandinavian countries, including a tap on the shoulder. As you can imagine, the level of corroboration in Scandinavia is quite comprehensive. We founded the Scandinavian Rules Committee in 2020, and started to work on a common rule book, which was published in 2021. Although there would still be minor differences.
After that, it was a natural step to move on to harmonize one of the differences, the crop rules. During that work, the Swedish Tote, ATG, did a survey on horse welfare that I would like to mention briefly.
In fact, the Swedish Tote did two surveys, from which I have extracted the most important points of interest. For obvious reasons, the view from the punters is of great interest for us as they are our direct customers.
So ATG put forward the following question: In the past year, have you noticed cases where horses are being badly treated within the framework of competitions that ATG offers? The answer was a staggering 30% answered yes. Out of those 30%, 91% of the 30% says the reason is too hard or too frequent use of the whip.
Furthermore, 25% of all respondents actively refrained from betting on races from a specific country because horses have been treated badly. As the timeline showed earlier, the crop rules have been an ongoing process for many years in Scandinavia. In 2021 we got the assignment from the stakeholders to review the current crop rules. In the process, we went back to the stakeholders and asked them to point us in the right direction which way they wanted to go.
So the two options were: No crop at all, or three taps on the shoulder. The answer was clear. They wanted to follow the tough line and go with no crop at all. Another strong factor was obviously the public perception, in particular our main source of income, the punters, who made a view clear statement through the ATG survey.
So before I talk about the writing of the crop rule, I would like to start with a clip from Norway. Itís an older clip to illustrate an act we wanted to avoid.
If you look at the rider using his rein as a whip sort of. He is swinging the reins up towards the head of the horse and trying to use the reins as a whip. That was something we clearly wanted to prevent.
Situations like this led to a writing that was very rigid and possibly too narrow. Please note the yellow marked text, and if you read it, very literally it seems that the rider can never remove their hands from certain a point of the horseís neck. That was never the thought behind it.
We will obviously allow jockeys to change hands on the reins. However, despite thorough information, lengthy briefing of jockeys of how the rules should be interpreted, it was not well-received and jockeys felt limited.
To avoid a potential strike in June 2022, it was agreed to have a meeting with the jockey association, which led to a minor change. The yellow text from the previous slide was changed to the following, and we found a clearer way to write the rule.
In effect, the change was limited. It simply just clarifies and prohibits the rider to wave the crop towards the horseís eye. In addition, it allows the rider to change hands, which was never the intention to prohibit.
I will now show a short clip of how a normal race is ridden after the current rules have been implemented. This video is from August 2022, and weíll show the last quarter of a mile.
There is still a winner. They are still fighting for the win, and it looks acceptable in my eyes. So what do we know so far? Obviously itís still early days, but these are our experiences so far. The handicapper estimates that the horses do not run slower. We see no change in the results that would justify any other conclusions.
You could argue it would affect the breed, but itís interesting to see 2-year-old Breedersí Cup Juvenile Fillies Turg winner Aunt Pearl was a Swedish trained mare who won a classic race in Norway without use of the cop. To me, itís quite interesting.
The stewards experience less interference so far this year. We rarely see dangerous situations or dangerous riding in Scandinavia anymore. On the minor interferences weíve seen about 10% less this year compared to 2021, though it would be premature to draw any definite conclusion at this stage.
Itís especially minor interferences like these that occur less often. The focus should be on the rider to the right in the black silks. You see he used the whip left-handed in a bit, and after that he waves with the whip in front of the horseís eye.
Iím not here to judge, but you canít rule out there is a correlation between the use of the crop and the interference. Furthermore, turnover on betting is up for the ATG as a whole. They donít see any negative impact on betting. Rather, the betting company sees a clear positive correlation between crop rules and betting.
Overall, the new crop rule has been positively received by owners, trainers, even jockeys. Obviously not all. Media has been very positive, as they now feel theyíre able to produce TV for broader audience.
From my perspective, I see no negative impact to the sport that the doubters believe would be the case. As we have heard several times today, horses come first. For me personally, it does not make sense to strike the animal that we all love so dearly.
Thank you for having me. It has been an honor.
STUART JANNEY III: Thank you, Dennis. One of the components of HISA is to regulate crop use and make it uniform in all jurisdictions like youíve done in Scandinavia. Your conclusions are very encouraging.
In 2019, The Jockey Club became the first organization in North America to call for the elimination of use of the whip for encouragement. While the pace of change may be slow on this issue, we can now see what is possible.