While doing a search on the animal abuser Luke Plano, I came upon a recent Daily Racing Form interview with his father, Rick, also a harness racer. Some excerpts illustrating (again) how disconnected these people are.
Q: What is your favorite sport to watch?
A: It used to be football but now it is more golf because football is so violent now.
Violence? Well, if we’re taking violence to its most extreme end: In 102 seasons, exactly one professional football player has died in a game. One. Horseracing? I just reported on three in a single day (Wednesday).
Q: What is one thing about you most fans/bettors don’t know?
A: I’m a pretty emotional guy and a horse lover. … A lot of people do this for the money but I’m a horse lover. I buy good horses and I don’t abuse them. When I retire them we find them good homes and hope they live happily ever after.
Operative word in that “happily ever after” phrase: “hope.” Of course, Mr. Plano knows full well that most “retired” Standardbreds ultimately land in equine hell – the abattoir.
Q: What is one word that describes harness racing for you?
A: It used to be “great” when I was growing up, but it is more disappointing now. Thirty or so years ago when I got on an airplane people knew who I was and wanted my autograph. Now when I get on a plane…I’m just a nobody.
Q: With over 7,200 driving wins and over 4,000 as a trainer, what do those numbers mean to you?
A: It’s been good to me. I’d say 75% of the people out there who do what I do struggle and live on a week to week basis. So many times I’ll be in a race coming down the stretch and I’ll see some guy knocking away [DRF explains: “whipping his horse hard”] and I’m sitting fifth or sixth. I’m not trying to miss a check, but in my mind if it works out that way, that guy probably needs fifth more than I do so they can put some food on the table and clothes on their kids’ back.
Just “knocking away” – abusing an animal, that is – “so they can put some food on the table and clothes on their kids’ back.”
Q: You’ve gotten some fines during your career for failing to pause while whipping and unsatisfactory drives. In today’s culture, is there a fine line between what you feel is necessary for the horse and what the public thinks is ok?
A: Back in the day I used to get fined for not whipping enough…. The reality is that when I was betting on horses or other drivers [yes, like Pete Rose, he bet on his own industry], if I saw them coming down the stretch and they weren’t whipping on that horse, I would say, “what are you doing?” … I’m an old school guy. I always knew that a whip didn’t make horses go faster. I always said it stops them from slowing down.
“Stops them from slowing down.”
Q: Which horse are you most looking forward to racing this year?
A: I have a 2-year-old named Topville Somebeach. I bought him…for $40,000. I haven’t messed around with babies in a while but I bought a couple this year for the reason I mentioned earlier, there is no more racing down here [Florida]. So I took a shot. I had a couple of friends that wanted to buy some young horses. I figured if one of them steps up I can go to the sale next year and buy a half-dozen.
Buying babies – enough said.
Q: Better driver you or Luke?
A: I think my son is now. He’s younger…more aggressive. I don’t need to be aggressive with the horses I have, but my son is a…competitive driver.
“More aggressive”? Why, yes he is.