Some Excessive Whipping and a Dead Standardbred at Cal Expo

From the January Cal Expo (harness racing) Stewards’ Minutes:

“Driver Mark Eaton was fined for violation of the ‘House Whipping Rule’ – ‘ANY BLATANT OR EXAGGERATED MOVEMENTS OF THE WHIPPING ARM WHICH WILL RESULT FROM RAISING THE ELBOW ABOVE THE DRIVER’S SHOULDER HEIGHT AND/OR ALLOWING THE HAND HOLDING THE WHIP TO REACH BEHIND THE DRIVER DURING THE USE OF THE WHIP.’ Mr. Eaton had to agree that his whipping action was excessive and accepted the penalty.” Upshot: $50 fine.

“Driver Tim Clevenger appeared in the Stewards office in order to review his drive aboard Bluebird Cheetah. The burly Clevenger used his whip excessively and with unnecessary force throughout the stretch drive. The Stewards told Clevenger a repeat performance of his January 11th actions will lead to an immediate and significant escalation of sanctions. Clevenger agreed with the Stewards evaluation of the drive.” Upshot: $100 fine.

“Driver Patrick Galbraith appeared in the Stewards office in order to review his actions in the stretch drive of last night’s first race. The Stewards all felt Galbraith was over zealous with his use of the whip… Taking the driving crop back behind the head prior to its usage is not allowed by the stewards. A penalty will be issued regarding this matter. More to follow.” Upshot: “more to follow.”

And finally, on January 16th, “Following the running of the fourth race seventh place finisher St. Lads Kingpin collapsed while pulling up past the finish line. Shortly after…it was reported that St. Lads Kingpin had expired on the track.” Upshot: dead.

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  1. Patrick, I remembered this post and went looking for it while watching those poor, low-level Standardbreds at Cal Expo tonight. Clevenger was at it again, viciously side whipping the hopelessly overmatched Bluebird Cheetah in the 5th race at Cal Expo. In most world racing jurisdictions, horses that are repeatedly (the number of times is usually low) overmatched/outclassed by their rivals are not even permitted by the stewards to race again until they have, if they ever can, demonstrate via trial races that they can compete at that level. This is when “standard times” come into play. Can’t compete within a certain class level’s standard time range? Then no racing for you. My point is, Bluebird Cheetah would not be permitted to race on most tracks outside the US where racing is policed at any level. So, the welfare of US racehorses, supposedly of great concern to all involved, is often no better than horses racing at bush tracks in Latin America or Eastern Europe.
    The only slight positive to this is Clevenger doesn’t get as many chances to beat up horses; he drives less often than Cal Expo’s better drivers. Galbraith has even fewer. I seldom see Eaton’s name as listed driver.

    You can’t honor people like them with the term “horseman.” Real horsemen know that when a horse is giving everything within his ability/desire to do so, no amount of whipping is going to improve his performance. So whipping winds up being “theater,” the whipping is intended to make the uninformed owner/bettor say: “Well, look at that lousy horse. The driver hit him the length of the stretch and got nothing for it.”

    Speaking of “excessive whipping,” jockey Santiago Mendez hit the not-quite-4-year-old Quarterhorse filly Cristina Spesial (longest shot in the race) at least THIRTY-FIVE times during tonight’s 5th race at Los Alamitos. At least once for every 10 yards, about every strideof the 350 yards race. Needless to say, this is common in Quarterhouse racing. Also needless to say, there will be no visit to the stewards for Mendez.

    • Kari, thank you so much for sharing this. While I am sickened to read of the whipping that Bluebird Cheetah and Cristina Spesial endured, you exposed their abuse. More advocates need to speak up, as well!

  2. Yes, excessive whipping is common the length of the stretch in Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing. Quarterhorse races are so short, jockeys may whip the horses with impunity (no call-in by the stewards) the entire length of the race!

    I’m sure we all remember the infamous whipping of Rachel Alexandra by Calvin Borel in the 2009 Woodward Stakes. He hit this gallant, game filly more than TWENTY times. What would have resulted in a heavy fine and probable suspension in another Western country or Hong Kong (China!) elicited a little eyebrow raising and hand wringing in the US. The fact that Borel broke Rachel’s heart is seldom mentioned. She was giving everything she had BEFORE the whipping, so all the whipping did was confuse her and break her spirit.

    If you live in a state with live racing, please contact your elected legislators regarding your concerns about racing abuses. Not by email, that gets read by some low-level staffer and probably never gets to the legislator, but by typed letter. Mention specific instances that can easily be documented and viewed online in race replays. The facts, facts, facts that are published in Patrick’s blog. Calmly, rationally, nonconfrontationally. Let’s try to keep nibbling away at them.

  3. Kathleen, Sorry to be so late in replying to your question. The year after her Woodward win Rachel Alexandra raced as a four-year-old. And she had a couple of wins, along with three losses. She had won eight of eight races as a three-year-old, three of them against males. I am convinced she–literally–ran her heart out in the Woodward under Borel’s beating and that it was only her tremendous class and desire that accounted for her wins as a four-year-old. To see a hopelessly beaten racehorse whipped the length of the stretch is wrenching enough but to see this gallant, courageous filly whipped by Borel the length of the stretch in the Woodward was sickening. Watch a replay of that race and watch her returning to the winner’s circle, heaving and her head hanging, And did you know her trainer (after the filly’s purchase by Jess Jackson) was Steve Asmussen, of PETA undercover story infamy?

  4. These stories make me sick, but think it’s necessary to get the information out there, so people can start paying attention to what happens to these beauties. Laws need to change, so that this abuse can stop

  5. Thank you Kari.

    Rachel Alexandra – all I could find on her in terms of what is happening to her now..

    I hope they don’t breed this mare again. She had a lot of discomfort with her first foal, and then the second was nearly fatal.

    Will they let her stay here for life ????

    STONESTREET: RACHEL ALEXANDRA WILL NOT BE BRED IN 2014
    paulick report 2/14/2014

    The champion race mare spent five weeks in the hospital, during which time she underwent a second surgery for an abscess in her reproductive tract.

    Some race fans and animal activists expressed concern about Rachel’s future as a broodmare, given that her medical struggles in 2013 were not her first. The mare also spent a few days at Rood and Riddle following the delivery of her 2012 Curlin colt for pain management.

    Beautiful photos of her

    http://www.americasbestracing.net/en/the-latest/blogs/2014/4/24/catching-up-with-rachel-alexandra/
    http://www.stonestreetfarms.com/farm/broodmares/#broodmare-content-wrapper

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