Last month, I posted about the animal-abusing trainer Amber Cobb. Yesterday, the Paulick Report filed a lengthy piece detailing Cobb’s cruelty. With it, came a video (below) obtained through a FOIA request. That video, shot in February, and testimony (to the Delaware Racing Commission) came from Lisa Whittaker, a former groom for Cobb. Here is some of what she said to the commissioners:

“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.”

From the article: “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 rest of the article details Cobb’s “defense,” and the reasons the Commission reduced from two years to two months. For example: “[S]everal commissioners remarked during public deliberations that they were impressed with Cobb…. ‘You were articulate,’ said chairman W. Duncan Patterson Jr. ‘You were an excellent witness.'” Now, watch the video. But be forewarned, it’s very bad.

This is the person the Delaware Racing Commission was “impressed with.” (And yes, they saw this video before making those comments and commuting her sentence.)

By the way, here are just some of the horses Cobb, as trainer, had a hand in killing over the past few years. (The last two were “wash-bay incidents.”)

4-year-old Private Thrill, Sep 3, 2016, Finger Lakes racing

3-year-old Justenuffaddie, Nov 30, 2016, Finger Lakes racing

3-year-old Last Chant, Nov 15, 2018, Finger Lakes racing

4-year-old Take Charge Jamie, Aug 24, 2019, Finger Lakes training

2-year-old Sky High Interest, Jun 12, 2020, Finger Lakes: “flipped…sustained head injury requiring euthanasia”

5-year-old Diamond Darlin, Jul 20, 2020, Delaware: “horse reared and fell, hit head, fractured skull, ruptured major artery – died” (note: not euthanized, just died)

Yesterday, as many of you have probably heard, Bold and Bossy “escaped” Ellis Park before the first – and her first – race and ended up on a Kentucky highway:

Apparently, the filly is all right – for now. But what caught my eye were the comments from Bold’s owner/trainer, Michael Ewing: “You think of all the silly baby things that are going to go wrong. I didn’t think this.” Indeed, Ms. Ewing, a mere baby (Bold had just turned two), and yet you had her at the ready to be whip-raced around an oval track where her young life would have clearly been in jeopardy. Ewing then added a bit of levity: “Thank god for all the people who jumped in to go find her because she left town.” And: “Apparently, she can run.” Good, clean fun, huh? Vile.

Back in June, Oregon State Senator Peter Courtney introduced a bill to ban horseracing in that state. While it has yet to gain traction, we certainly applaud the senator’s bold, courageous action – to my knowledge, the first of its kind in the nation. In any event, as fully expected, the racing people and their apologists are none too pleased. And, as fully expected, they are punching back with disinformation. But the commissioners of Josephine County – the site of Oregon’s sole commercial track, Grants Pass – have scaled new, risible heights.

The following letter was sent to the Oregon Senate. Enjoy.

June 9, 2021
To: Senate Rules Committee
Re: Josephine County Objects to SB871 (Horse Racing Ban)

Josephine County, as the owner of the racing facility that hosts Grants Pass Downs, objects to SB 871.

Because of horse racing, racehorses generally lead good lives. Race horses nurse from healthy mothers, sleep in secure and comfortable settings, play with each other and people, eat well-balanced diets, get expert veterinary and dental care, and receive copious human love. Racehorses love to run and to participate in a structured routine at which they are the center of attention. Beyond that, it is impossible to overstate how much horse people love their racehorses.

It is true that horse racing involves risk. But the benefit that horse racing provides to both horses and people far outweighs that risk. Horse racing is highly regulated by both the Oregon Racing Commission and by its own industry participants. A ban on horse racing would not improve the lives of the horses who obviously love the sport, or of the people who love racehorses.

Please enter this letter into the legislative record for SB 871 and all other proposed legislation that pertains to horse racing.

[signed by the three commissioners]

In Delaware, an animal-cruelty suspension for trainer Amber Cobb has been reduced by the Racing Commission from two years to two months (she still has to complete “anger management” though). While I do not know the specific abuse(s) – the stewards simply said that Cobb “demonstrated cruelty to a horse in her care” (I’ve heard it was physical) – the mere fact that she was originally suspended for two years, which for racing is akin to capital punishment, means it must have been pretty bad.

While some are (might be) outraged over the commutation, I believe this is missing the forest for the trees. The issue is not the term; rather, that there is a term. That anyone “convicted” of cruelty to horses would ever be allowed back in – whether in two months, two years, or a decade hence – is as powerful an indictment of this vile industry as I’ve seen.

On another note, I’m often asked why miscreants like Cobb can’t be charged under state cruelty statutes. Well first, as is the case with most every other industry that uses animals, the law typically defers to what’s called “common industry practice.” This is why a person whipping his dog in the park would (hopefully) be arrested, while a jockey whipping his horse is cheered. Also, with racing, the policing is left to the industry itself, masquerading as state racing commissions. In other words, don’t look to laws and courts for remedy; the only way to truly curb the Amber Cobbs of the world is to shut this thing down completely.