Some notes from recent California State Fair (Sacramento) Stewards Minutes:
July 15, “There were no on-track ‘heat’ related incidents today. Highest heat index, less the wind factor, was 121 for the second race.”
July 22, “Today [Chester] Bonnet explained that he had concerns about the soundness of his mount down the backstretch and into the lane but did not take any actions to pull the horse up. …Bonnet was admonished that should he determine his mount is not physically able to give its best then he should take the horse out of the race rather than relax his efforts in late stretch and hope for the best.”
July 29, “Jockey PEDRO TERRERO who rode the horse MY FRIEND GEORGE in the eighth race at [Sacramento] on July 23, 2017 is fined the sum of $500.00 for causing a welt on the flank… The above ruling was issued after Jockey Terrero appeared and reviewed replays of the race in question and photos of the welts on MY FRIEND GEORGE who won the eighth race… Mr. Terrero was very contrite and apologized.”
$500 for animal cruelty, but all’s good – he apologized.
July 30, “Jockey JUAN E. SANCHEZ who rode the horse HIGH GREELY in the third race at Golden Gate on September 4, 2016 is fined the sum of $500.00 for causing a welt on the flank… Sanchez remembered seeing the pictures back in September of last year and agreed to the fine. Investigator Mulligan said that the case fell through the cracks, which is why we are hearing it eleven months after the incident.”
“Fell through the cracks.”
Just because California posts its whipping violations doesn’t mean it cares more about its racehorses than the majority of states that don’t. In fact, all American racehorses are treated exactly the same – as things to be used, abused, and expended. It’s just that California, one of our more progressive states on any number of social issues, is keenly aware of public perception. Hence, the transparency ruse. But more to the point, at least for the purpose of this entry, is of what use are violations if the corresponding penalties never rise to deterrent-level, are, in fact, a joke? Among the several violations reported in Los Alamitos’ most recent minutes is this:
“Jockey Eduardo Nicasio appeared in the stewards office in order to review his ride aboard #9 Mr Apollitical Dash who finished fifth in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity (Grade 1) [on December 11] which carried a purse of $1,950,050. This horse earned $114,483 for his fifth place finish. Film review shows Jockey Nicasio use his whip twelve (12) consecutive times in this races final eighty (80) yards. This was his fifth riding crop violation since July of 2015. The stewards unanimously ruled this occurrence was a blatant misuse of his riding crop.”
“JOCKEY EDUARDO NICASIO IS SUSPENDED FOR THREE (3) RACING DAYS FOR A BLATANT VIOLATION OF CALIFORNIA HORSE RACING BOARD RULE #1688(b)(6) (USE OF RIDING CROP-MORE THAN THREE TIMES IN SUCCESSION WITHOUT GIVING THE HORSE A CHANCE TO RESPOND) DURING THE EIGHTH RACE AT LOS ALAMITOS RACE COURSE ON DECEMBER 11, 2016.”
Twelve consecutive lashes, which apparently constitutes a “blatant violation”; fifth whipping infraction in 18 months. But heck, there appears to have been mitigating circumstances – to wit, a whole lot of money was at stake. Ruling: a three-day suspension (with, far as I can tell, no fine). Three days.
On September 30, 6-year-old Lil Dip a Nitro was a scratch in the 4th at Los Alamitos. Turns out he couldn’t be raced that night because he was dead – “euthanized,” says the CHRB, just prior to (official cause not given). In all, the gelding went under the whip 30 times, most recently a month before dying.
Also – with each edition of the California Stewards Minutes, there are, typically, several “whip violations.” Perhaps the primary reason the numbers ever seem to remain steady is the wrist-slap penalties (e.g., a third violation in a 60-day period brings but a $300 fine). But this one really caught my eye:
WHIP VIOLATION The following ruling was issued to Jockey Eduardo Nicasio for blatant abuse of the crop in Saturday evening’s ninth race, when he was riding #1 Better Check Him Out. During the entire 350 yards of the race, Mr. Nicasio hit his mount approximately “twenty five” plus times in three different engagements. All of this for a horse that finished last [10th]. Eduardo did not argue the matter and had no plausible excuse. The Stewards thought that this was so aggressive and abusive that he deserved a suspension. It should be noted that Mr. Nicasio has had numerous crop violations this year, although none in the previous sixty days.
The following ruling was issued: JOCKEY EDUARDO NICASIO IS SUSPENDED FOR THREE RACING DAYS FOR A BLATANT VIOLATION OF CALIFORNIA HORSE RACING BOARD RULE #1688(b)(6) (USE OF RIDING CROP-MORE THAN THREE TIMES IN SUCCESSION WITHOUT GIVING THE HORSE A CHANCE TO RESPOND) DURING THE NINTH RACE AT LOS ALAMITOS ON OCTOBER 1, 2016.
To recap: Jockey hammers horse 25+ times – in about 18 seconds, while bringing up the rear. Jockey came into the race with “numerous” whip violations on the year. But jockey – “Eduardo,” as the stewards refer to him – is sorry. Verdict: three days off. Three days – for what the stewards themselves concede is abuse. Still buying the “equine welfare is our top priority” drivel? Sick.
Replay (Better Check Him Out is on the inside rail): http://www.losalamitos.com/Replays.aspx – hit “Replays,” Sat Oct 1, Race 9