One race yesterday, the 2nd at Fair Grounds, as relayed by the Equibase chartwriter:

“TREYS MIDNITE MOON was roused [whipped]

“IM A COWBOY TOO came under the whip

“PAPA’S BOY drifted out under a left-handed whip

“IMPRESSIVE STUDENT tossed his head while rank under restraint

Then this: “CHASE FOR THE GOLD fought hard against the rating tactics of the rider when taken in hand then was wrestled back while tossing his head badly…was urged along…and stopped [finishing last, 25+ lengths back]”

“fought hard against the [jockey]…was wrestled back while tossing his head badly”

We shouldn’t need to convince you that horseracing is animal cruelty; it’s on full display at racetracks across America every single day.

From the most recent Stewards Minutes at Los Alamitos, December 28:

“The hearing for the penalty portion of the Methamphetamine case against Trainer Jose Flores took place this afternoon. Mr. Flores’ horse Look of Love MV was the winner of the fifth race at Los Alamitos Race Course on May 17. The post-race blood and urine samples showed the presence of Methamphetamine…a split sample confirmed the original findings.

“[Mr. Flores’] defense centered around the fact that once he was aware of the positive test, he ordered all employees in his barn to be tested for drugs. He also volunteered to test. All samples came back clean except for one. Victor Arias, who was the horse’s groom, tested positive for the drug found in the horse’s sample – Methamphetamine. Arias has since been barred from these grounds by management.

“Equine Medical Director Dr. Rick Arthur stated in the investigative report that the level [of Methamphetamine] in both blood and urine were extremely high, leading him to conclude that it was not an accidental positive test – someone purposely gave the horse Methamphetamine. We will…render a decision in the near future.”

By the way, the 2-year-old Look of Love Mv remains in the possession of Mr. Flores; in fact, Flores raced her at Los Alamitos December 27 – just a day before this hearing.

In other news:

In the 2nd at Sunland Tuesday, says Equibase, Sea Merman “bled outwardly and was vanned off.”

In the 2nd at Fair Grounds yesterday, J Rob “…came under the whip…responded well…and prevailed under vigorous urging [more whipping] then was vanned off after returning to the winners circle [yes, he ‘won’].” J Rob was one of three horses to be “vanned off” on the Fair Grounds day.

This is horseracing.

Having already opined on Donna Brothers – stupid is as stupid writes – perhaps you may think it a bit uncharitable of me to pile on. Thing is, she makes it so damn hard (easy). In an InsideRacingRegs blog post, the writer, “Joe” (can’t find his full name anywhere on the site), took the racing industry to task on the whip “debate”:

“I listened to last Thursday’s audiocast of the CHRB public meeting during which they debated the use of the whip/riding crop. [O]ne thing stood out. That was the CHRB’s unwillingness to acknowledge the obvious. Not one board member suggested that whipping a horse inflicted pain or was inhumane or out of step with the views of California residents, whom they are responsible for representing.

“The obvious remarks were from animal activists in attendance who laid bare the fallacy of the racing industry’s argument for continuing to permit horses to be whipped during a race. More than once during the public comment on a proposed whipping rule, animal activist [sic] repeated comments of the board’s own equine medical director, Dr. Rick Arthur. ‘There are those that argue that whipping does not hurt horses, but that is nonsense and we all know that. Whips are a noxious stimuli. They hurt. That’s why they are used. Run fast or I’ll hit you again.’ Not only does the whipping of a horse look abusive, it is abusive.

“[J]ockeys testified of the need to use the whip as a tool. They spoke of their ‘love,’ ‘respect,’ and ‘partnership’ with the horse. No one on the board asked the riders of the oddity of a position that sanctioned the whipping of a beloved and respected partner. There is a term for that. It’s called cognitive dissonance. … We live in an age that whipping an animal is unacceptable. In other words, this is a moral imperative.”

Okay, pretty good for an apologist. But not according to Ms. Brothers. Her comment:

“Mr. Gorajec [apparently, that’s his name], I respectfully disagree with your conclusion that is based on the false premise that riding crops cause horses to feel pain. Especially today’s riding crop and particularly Ramon Dominguez’s 360GT riding crop which is not much different than a pool noodle with a handle.

“We know that horses do not run fast because of pain–they SLOW DOWN when they’re in pain. However, the riding crop does serve two purposes: one, it reminds them of expected behavior (maintain a straight course, don’t duck out sharply, etc.) and it encourages them to keep running to the finish line even though, like the jockey, they are beginning to fatigue.

“Horses are pack animals and some will not willing [sic] leave their herd without encouragement. Also, they have NO IDEA where the finish line is. We think that because WE know where it is they do too–not so. We change distances, surfaces, venues, etc. on them all the time. They only know to keep running until we say the race is over. And the riding crop plays a big role in this encouragement. Warm regards, Donna Brothers”

I almost feel sorry for her. Almost.

In the trials for this Sunday’s $2 million Futurity at Los Alamitos Race Course, the richest Quarterhorse race in America, these whipping (or “crop,” as the stewards called them) violations:

JOCKEY RUBEN LOZANO IS FINED $150 FOR VIOLATION OF CHRB RULE #1688 (USE OF RIDING CROP-MORE THAN THREE TIMES IN SUCCESSION, WITHOUT GIVING THE HORSE A CHANCE TO RESPOND) – SECOND OFFENSE WITHIN THE PREVIOUS 60 DAY PERIOD – DURING THE RUNNING OF THE SECOND RACE NOV 24.

JOCKEY VINNIE BEDNAR IS FINED $250 FOR VIOLATION OF [SAME RULE] – THIRD OFFENSE WITHIN THE PREVIOUS 60 DAY PERIOD – DURING THE RUNNING OF THE THIRD RACE NOV 24.

JOCKEY JAMES FLORES IS FINED $50 FOR VIOLATION OF [SAME RULE] DURING THE RUNNING OF THE FOURTH RACE NOV 24.

JOCKEY OSCAR PEINADO IS FINED $150 FOR VIOLATION OF [SAME RULE] – SECOND OFFENSE WITHIN THE PREVIOUS 60 DAY PERIOD – DURING THE RUNNING OF THE EIGHTH RACE NOV 24.

JOCKEY ARMANDO CERVANTES IS FINED $150 FOR VIOLATION OF [SAME RULE] – SECOND OFFENSE WITHIN THE PREVIOUS 60 DAY PERIOD – DURING THE RUNNING OF THE NINTH RACE NOV 24.

JOCKEY JAIRO RANGEL IS FINED $150 FOR VIOLATION OF [SAME RULE] – SECOND OFFENSE WITHIN THE PREVIOUS 60 DAY PERIOD – DURING THE RUNNING OF THE ELEVENTH RACE NOV 24.

JOCKEY JOSE NICASIO IS FINED $150 FOR VIOLATION OF [SAME RULE] – SECOND OFFENSE WITHIN THE PREVIOUS 60 DAY PERIOD – DURING THE RUNNING OF THE FIFTH RACE NOV 24.

JOCKEY JOSE NICASIO [yes, same guy] IS FINED $250 FOR VIOLATION OF [SAME RULE] – THIRD OFFENSE WITHIN THE PREVIOUS 60 DAY PERIOD – DURING THE RUNNING OF THE SEVENTH RACE NOV 24.

Lots of cash at stake – whip the hell out of your horses. Please note, also, the repeat offenders – 6 of the 7 – and the wrist taps they incurred.

But wait, there were more:

JOCKEY EDUARDO ROJAS IS FINED $150 FOR VIOLATION OF [SAME RULE] – SECOND OFFENSE WITHIN THE PREVIOUS 60 DAY PERIOD – DURING THE RUNNING OF THE SECOND RACE NOV 29.

JOCKEY VINNIE BEDNAR [see above] IS FINED $350 FOR VIOLATION OF [SAME RULE] – FOURTH OFFENSE WITHIN THE PREVIOUS 60 DAY PERIOD – DURING THE RUNNING OF THE EIGHTH RACE NOV 29.

JOCKEY RAMON SANCHEZ IS FINED $50 FOR VIOLATION OF [SAME RULE] DURING THE RUNNING OF THE FIFTH RACE NOV 29.

JOCKEY ARMANDO CERVANTES [see above] IS FINED $250 FOR VIOLATION OF [SAME RULE] – THIRD OFFENSE WITHIN THE PREVIOUS 60 DAY PERIOD – DURING THE RUNNING OF THE THIRD RACE NOV 30.

All of these “men” would have been arrested for animal cruelty had they done the same to a dog. But done in the name of “sport”? Business as usual.

Whipping a racehorse is the most conspicuous form of animal abuse this side of bullfighting and basically every rodeo “competition.” No need for undercover cameras here. Because of this – or to be more accurate, because of Santa Anita thrusting all things racing into the spotlight – the industry is desperately scrambling. What to do about something that has been a fundamental part of racing since time immemorial.

For most in racing, however, whipping is but a problem of perception. Indeed, at the monthly CHRB meeting just two days ago, new board member Wendy Mitchell said this: “The optics on it [whipping] are bad.” The “optics.” Not that we agree it’s cruelty, mind you; it just looks bad. Well. Back in ’15, the ABC (Australia) ran a piece on this very subject. The whole thing (below) is worth watching, but a couple quotes stand out.

Dr. Lydia Tong, veterinary pathologist, on the relative skin thickness of horses and humans: “The really interesting part is that right up in the epidermis, which is the top layer and that’s where the pain-sensing C fibres are, in the human specimen that’s thicker than the horse’s. So by the old argument of horse’s skin is thicker and they feel it less, actually you could argue human’s skin is thicker.” So have someone take a horse whip to your leg (which was done in the show) and report back.

Then this on horse nature: “If a prey animal shows its pain very overtly, they are more likely to then be noticed and picked out by a predator. So actually often prey animals they kind of shut up and put up.”

And finally, this from Australian Racing’s Peter McGauran: “That [not shifting from pain] would have been learned behaviour, agreed. Under the old days [prior to new whip/whipping rules] I concede that the horses learnt to absorb the punishment afforded them.”

The “old days”? 2009. Yes, that’s right, here we have a prominent racing executive admitting that as recently as five years prior, his jockeys inflicted “punishment” on his horses – punishment, by the way, seemingly well-“absorbed” due to learned helplessness. Imagine that. Yet I wonder, Mr. McGauran, does this mean that back in the “old days” you were sharing that opinion far and wide, or were you, like the rest, singing that decades-old industry line of the whip as “painless guide”? Please.

Oh, and one final note, Mr. McGauran: There is no past tense about this (“it was broken, so we fixed it”); as the piece (science, common sense) makes abundantly clear, a whip in the hands of a racehorse jockey will always be an instrument of intimidation, conveyor of pain. Put another way, your kinder, gentler whipping is a lie. To steal a line from Clinton ’92, it’s animal cruelty, stupid. And ever it will be.