Last week, trainer Amber Cobb was suspended 7 years and fined $11,000 by the New Jersey Racing Commission. These are the offenses, as reported by BloodHorse: possession of hypodermic needles and syringes; possession of six vials of injectable foreign substances; training without a license. Then the biggie. Back in Feb ’21, you might remember, Cobb did this to one of her horses, a yet-to-be-named 2-year-old filly, at a private New Jersey farm. It was taken by a Cobb groom, Lisa Whittaker.
In defense, Cobb said the horse fell because of “slippery stall mats.” She then went on to claim she’d never had a horse flip like that before. But of course she had. Among the several Cobb kills I previously documented were these two:
Sky High Interest, Jun 12, 2020, Finger Lakes: “flipped…sustained head injury requiring euthanasia”; Diamond Darlin, Jul 20, 2020, Delaware: “horse reared and fell, hit head, fractured skull, ruptured major artery – died” (note: not euthanized, just died)
When reminded of Diamond, Cobb said (Paulick Report): “Oh, I forgot about her. I try to forget about her. She bolted off the wash rack and flipped over. It was an older horse … they think it was semi-heart attack related. She was an older horse.” That “older horse” was five. And isn’t it nice to know she “tries to forget about her”?
Below is a photo taken by Whittaker the day before the incident in the video. It is of Cobb with that same 2-year-old filly:
Shortly thereafter in Delaware, a Paulick article said this happened: “At the beginning of the 2021 Delaware Park meet, Whittaker recalled a horse – a bay colt – who was being taught to use the automatic walker. The horse broke loose and ran around the Delaware Park property for an extended period of time. When they finally caught him, the overwrought horse didn’t want to go into his stall. Whittaker testified that Cobb beat the colt in the head with a chain shank to get him to back into the stall. She also said Cobb told her to withhold feed from the horse for four days afterwards.”
The testimony (to the Delaware Commission) from Whittaker was perhaps even more damning: “Her methods are brutal. She is very heavy-handed. If they are slightly out of line, and these are young horses, she’s screaming at them to whoa and hitting them with a whip. They don’t understand why. She flips horses over all the time. She’ll pull on their mouths when they’re ground driving. She’s screaming at them, she’s whipping them, and there’s nowhere for them to go but up.”
You might also remember that after viewing the video and after hearing Whittaker’s testimony, the Delaware Commission reduced Cobb’s suspension from two years to two months. Apparently, several commissioners were impressed with Cobb. Chairman W. Duncan Patterson Jr.: “You were articulate. You were an excellent witness. I believe you were scared…. I believe you acted irrationally and I cannot ignore the video. It’s too damning. I [believe] that the stewards were correct in their ruling but the penalty goes much too far. I think that would put you out of business.”
Can’t have that, right? Eventually – after public outrage, that is – Cobb’s Delaware license was revoked (though it was scheduled to expire anyway at the end of ’22), and she has not resurfaced there since. Which brings us back to New Jersey. The February ’21 beating accounts for five of the seven years in suspension time. Five years. Now, whether this will effectively end her career as a trainer is quite beside the point, for why not actually kill her career? Where is that figurative death sentence? You know how I feel, she should have gone to jail. But horseracing – that besieged industry now boasting vociferously about the primacy of equine welfare – decides to leave the door open. Imagine that.