One of the ways horseracing has been able to survive for so long is masterful marketing – “The Sport of Kings.” But it could not have done so without complicit media partners: numerous Sports Illustrated covers; ESPN naming three racehorses to its list of the 20th Century’s greatest athletes; and in a class by itself, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), which dutifully covers all of Racing’s high holy days. And so it was last weekend at Churchill Downs, scene of this year’s Breeders’ Cup.
In the marquee race, the $6 million “Classic,” with NBC shamelessly presenting with all the drama and flair it would bring to any big sporting event, egregious animal cruelty was unfolding for the cameras – and hence, before our very eyes. In the stretch run, jockey Christophe Soumillon mercilessly whipped 4-year-old Thunder Snow – beat the hell out of him, actually. (Thunder Snow is the #1 horse; Soumillon wears blue.)
Trust your gut, folks – if it looks like animal cruelty, sounds (whack, whack, whack) like animal cruelty, and, simply, feels like animal cruelty, then that’s exactly what it is. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated. Horseracing is animal cruelty.
In the 2nd at Parx Sunday, this from Equibase: “GEORGIA BONNET was outrun while just off the rail, raced on her wrong lead and was lugging in through early stretch, her rider switched his whip to his left hand and hit GEORGIA BONNET repeatedly on the left side of her head through deep stretch.” The abuser atop, Tyrone Carter.
In the 2nd at Zia yesterday, “DUBLINS WILDBERRY flipped behind the gate then got loose briefly before being caught by the outrider, was a little fractious once in the gate, pressed the pace from inside a rival but off the fence, faded.” Yes, “faded” to the tune of 36 lengths back – after, again, “flipping,” “getting loose,” and being “fractious.”
This is horseracing.
From the most recent minutes at Los Alamitos:
September 14: “Jockey Marcial Ramirez failed to appear for this film review ordered. The Stewards wished to observe his ride aboard Foose Dependent on September 9. …Jockey Ramirez used his riding crop 32 consecutive times. Marcial Ramirez has been issued penalties 31 times by California stewards for violation of Use of Riding Crop dating back to July 2015.” Ruling: “Ramirez is suspended for five racing days for a blatant violation of Use of Riding Crop – more than three times in succession without giving the horse a chance to respond.” Five days for 29 excess lashes.
Wait, there’s more. On the same day he was handed his “punishment” for the above (which, obviously, did not take effect right away), Ramirez was at it again: “We determined that Jockey Ramirez used his riding crop more than three consecutive times [on] Scott For Her.” Again, he cut film study; in absentia, he was fined $250.
And, yes, more. The very next day, after being handed a suspension for one incident and a fine for another, Ramirez abused yet another horse, Classncoronas. For this, the stewards issued two more suspensions: excess whipping, three days; “careless riding,” three days – “The Stewards felt Jockey Ramirez was more concerned with using his riding crop then [sic] straightening out his mount with the riding reins.”
All told, for being a willful, habitual reprobate, Marcial Ramirez is suspended for 11 days and fined $250. But it gets worse: Each of the three suspensions carried this appendage: “The term of this suspension shall not prohibit participation in designated races in California.” What, you may ask, is a “designated race”? Well, anything the stewards say it is. In other words, a suspended jockey can still race if the stewards want or need him to. Worse still, if he is cleared to ride in only one “designated” race on a “suspension” day, that day counts toward his suspension. Imagine that. This would all be farcical if not for the gravity – cruelty to animals – involved.
The fate of Kieran Street in the 8th at Finger Lakes Thursday is yet another exhibit of industry subterfuge. On Equibase, the 3-year-old was a mere “fell at the top of the lane.” Nothing else. In fact, she is dead; in fact, according to the Gaming Commission, she was euthanized on the track – which, of course, the chartwriter surely knew.
I am able to confirm that Dudacity, three, was euthanized after being vanned off in the 1st at Gulfstream September 16.
At Penn yesterday, in addition to two horses requiring ambulances to get off the track, there was this in the 2nd: “MISS SWISHER broke well but quickly stopped after a few jumps, was excessively whipped by his rider as she was stopping…” Miss Swisher is a $4,000 claimer – about as cheap as it gets. In other words, who cares if she “was excessively whipped by his [sic] rider” while stopping? Certainly no one at Penn National: The animal-abuser in question, Julio Hernandez, wielded his whip on five other horses yesterday – four after Miss Swisher. It’s rotten to the core, folks.
Friday, the Minnesota Racing Commission issued the following:
“Commission Vet [observed] riding crop welts on the right flank of Ray’s Angel, winner of the 7th Race at Canterbury Park on July 19; Jockey Denny Velazquez is hereby assessed a civil penalty of $1,500. The Board of Stewards finds Velazquez’ previous history – seventh rule violation in the last three years involving prohibited use of the riding crop – to be an aggravating circumstance necessitating an enhanced penalty.”
WELTS. A history of abuse. A $1500 “civil penalty”? “Enhanced”?
Watch the force Velazquez brings to bear on Ray’s Angel; bluntly speaking, he is beating the hell out of him…
Saturday, the stewards at Prairie Meadows ruled:
“Having reviewed the video replay of the 8th race on August 3…Jockey Ramon Vazquez is hereby assessed an administrative penalty of $1,000 for excessive whipping (48 strikes in the final 3 ½ furlongs) of his horse, Underpressure. The Board notes Jockey Vazquez has had several violations at Prairie Meadows in recent history for excessive or indiscriminate whipping of his horse during a race.”
48 LASHES. A history of abuse. A $1000 “administrative penalty”?
Look, had the domesticated animals in question been pet-dogs instead of racehorses, these actions would have been criminal. (That’s not to say that anything meaningful would have resulted; state animal-cruelty statutes are largely toothless.) But because the law almost always defers to “common industry practice,” there’s nothing to be done. Horseracing has been beating animals – in plain view – for over a century. “Common industry practice.” So, Racing, police yourself. A slap to Velazquez, a slap to Vazquez, and they live to abuse for many more days. Sick.