Tidings From California: Beating Hopelessly Beaten Horses, a Tortuous Death, Shots to the Gut, and Flogging to a Welt

Some news from the California Horse Racing Board:

At Cal Expo (harness), “Driver James Kennedy appeared in the Stewards office to review his drive in the fifth race on Saturday, February 21, 2015. Driver Kennedy was aboard #1 ‘All American Solo’ who finished fifth (last) in this one (1) mile pacing event. Film review shows Driver Kennedy use his whip sixteen (16) times in the stretch on his way to a last place finish. The Stewards told Kennedy this was very excessive – DRIVER JAMES KENNEDY IS HEREBY FINED THE SUM OF ONE HUNDRED ($100.00)* DOLLARS”

$100 for whipping a bringing-up-the-rear racehorse 16 times.

At Cal Expo, “Driver David Siegel appeared in the Stewards office in order to review his drive in the first race last night (February 28th). Siegel was aboard #1 ‘Gentle Dragon’ who finished sixth (last) in this event. Siegel whipped this ten (10) year old mare twelve (12) times in the stretch drive while steadily maintaining a last place position. The Stewards explained to Driver Siegel that this is using unreasonable and unnecessary force. Siegel did not agree… DRIVER DAVID SIEGEL IS HEREBY FINED THE SUM OF ONE HUNDRED ($100.00)* DOLLARS”

$100 for whipping a 10-year-old mare 12 times in the stretch of a last-place finish.

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At Los Alamitos, “A formal hearing was conducted to address…an alleged violation of CHRB Rule #1902.5 (Animal Welfare). Heliodoro Robles is the owner of record for the horse You’re My Lady who died in her stall at Los Alamitos on December 9, 2014. The Necropsy Report found You’re My Lady had been in poor nutritional condition and had suffered from severe, chronic laminitis in all four legs. OWNER HELIODORO ROBLES IS SUSPENDED FOR THE TERM OF HIS LICENSES THROUGH JAN-2017 AND FINED TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS ($10,000)*”

$10,000 and a temporary suspension for torturing a horse to death.

At Santa Anita, “This ruling [$300 fine] was issued after [Kent] Desormeaux viewed video as the horses approached the starting gate for the sixth race yesterday. His horse, #5 QATAR’S PEARL, was not cooperating and was trying to ‘freeze.’ At this point Mr. Desormeaux hit the horse twice in the stomach. Unfortunately for the rider the pan camera was trained on him when the violation occurred. After viewing the video, Mr. Desormeaux readily admitted his mistake, stating that it was absolutely the wrong thing to do.”

“the wrong thing to do”

At Santa Anita, “Jockey MARIO GUTIERREZ is fined THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS ($300.00) for violation of California Horse Racing Board rule #1688 (Use of Whips – caused a welt) during the sixth race at Santa Anita Park on February 20, 2015.”

$300 for whipping to the point of a welt.

And finally, between Los Alamitos and Santa Anita in the week ending February 22nd, four not-identified athletes died. This is horseracing.

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  1. Any amount isn’t high enough because the sport should end, but that since this is the real world which is ran by greed and money, the penalties should be high enough to deter the crime. Rolling through a stop sign in California costs about $500.00 now, Whipping a horse should be at least that much. If not a $1000.00. But as I said, it should all be illegal. Profiting off of live animals like horses, killer whales, elephants, all animals for the amusement of people should be banned.

  2. And these are just the instances we hear about, the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
    Gutierrez rode I’ll Have Another for that O’Neill in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. O’Neill has been up for drug violations and his jockey raises welts on a horse. This is a corrupt and cruel business all the way from the lowest claiming to the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown. God help the horses.

  3. The fines are mere “slaps on the wrist” and do nothing to deter the repeated misuse of the whip. The whip needs to be outlawed period! This is abuse in the most blatant way. Heavy fines need to be imposed, like $5000. for the first offense. But nothing would please me more, than to see the use of the whip discontinued forever!! Marlene Thornley

  4. As much as I love horses, the impossibly low fine that is levied against abusers is a total outrage. Who will take the judges to task? NO ONE! The Triple Crown is on the top of my must watch list, but I still pray not to see the kind of abuse that leads to horses being maimed for life, or put down on the track. NO horse should be used that is under a FULL three years old. Their bones are not fully developed until after that time, and they should NOT be ridden until then. But this, THIS is a total outrage, and Desormeaux is on my shit list.

    • Hi Donna…it’s most likely you won’t see breakdowns like those that happen every single day at tracks across this nation on the televised Derby, Preakness, and Belmont. And if you do, Dr. Bramlage, the racing industy’s hired gun, will do some speedy damage control, assuring the television audience that everything will be done to ensure the “beloved” horse receives the best of care. I find it “funny” that horse “advocates” who support racing always PRAY that the racehorses cross the wire in one piece. Very odd, it is – I have not ONCE prayed that my family members come out of their many sporting events over the years with limbs intact…and to live another day.

      Donna, you might find this reading – “Timing and Rate of Skeletal Maturation in Horses” by Deb Bennett, Ph.D. – informative. Here, an excerpt: “horses have more than one growth plate…there are multiple ossification centers pertaining to every bone of the body outside of the skull, and that the schedule of growth plate closure (which begins around the time of birth and extends until the SIXTH YEAR) has been well known to veterinarians, paleontologists, zooarcheologists, and mammalogists since the early 19th century).”

      One more excerpt: “In general, treatments designed to repair a horse’s injuries and to alleviate its suffering are now used to get the animal out on the track to compete – to force the animal, like some punchdrunk fighter, to make just one more round. Equine veterinary medicine has been misdirected from the art of healing to the craft of portfolio management, and the business of horse racing is in the process of killing its goose with the golden eggs.” – Gregory Ferraro, DVM

      Here is the link to Bennett’s piece…


      • I agree Gena. But you do have to realize that the fines given are more than the jockeys earned by riding. So while they may not seem high, they do hurt. Jockey fees are normally $100 and down, unless they are in a Grade I stakes race.

  5. As I’ve written here before, punishment for horse abuse in this country is a complete misnoner. Fines are ridiculously low and suspensions snd bans are too short. And remember, because they are tax-deductible, YOU AND I and our fellow taxpayers are subsidizing this abuse! Please consider contacting your state legislators if you live in a state where live racing is conducted. State capitols are usually looking for ways to raise more money. Admittedly because fines are so low it’s not much money but making them non-tax deductiible would at least bring their attention to legislators and they could both raise a little money and feel good about themselves (they love opportunities to do that!). The way the system works now, with stewards and racing boards making decisions, we have the fox guarding the hen house.

    Patrick, thanks for posting about abuses at Los Alamitos and Cal Expo, as I am in SoCal. Cal Expo is in our state capitol’s backyard and abuses there are of greater interest to more state legislators than abuses at “local” tracks in the LA area.

    Jockeys punching, hitting, striking horses on the head with the whip, jabbing them in the mouth with the bit, etc etc is quite common. Again, with a few exceptions, these people are not horsemen and many do not even like horses. But also again the penalties for engaging in this brutality are a joke in this country but in other Western world style racing jurisdictions, penalties for this kind of abuse can really sting. No pun intended!

    BTW, about 40/years ago I saw Princess Anne of England repeatedly whip and kick her horse for refusing to take a jump at a fence on a cross country course. Out of the main areas of interest for most spectators only I and another viewer saw this. We reported it to the stewards and they said they would speak to her. I don’t know what happened but I do know it’s time to stop treating our abusive jockeys like little princes.

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