A recently-posted ruling from Ohio: “On March 7, a hearing was held for Jockey Angel Diaz for an alleged violation for misuse of the whip on his mount Colombard during the 7th race at Mahoning March 5. The horse, winner of the race, was examined by the Track Vet and was seen to have visible injuries from Mr. Diaz’s use of the whip.”

Ruling: guilty, fined $500, suspended five days. But, those penalties were “reduced to $250 and three days without appeal.” Yes, that’s right, you can beat your horse so hard you leave (what I presume were) welts, but as long as you don’t fight it we’ll cut you some slack. By the way, on the chart, Colombard was said to have “prevailed under strong handling.” I’ll say. The now-six-year-old has been raced 10 times since – four under the yoke of Diaz – and 46 in all.

Then this from Delaware: “Groom Jose Lopez, having tested positive for heroin and cocaine at Delaware Park on September 16, is hereby summarily suspended pending a hearing.” More of racing’s finest working with our poor horses.

In the 5th race at Zia Nov 20, says the New Mexico Racing Commission, jockey Luis Flores-Garcia whipped his horse, 3-year-old American Skandal, “in excess of 15 times.” This being his “third offense within a year,” Flores-Garcia was levied a $1,000 fine – but no suspension. In the very next race that day, Flores-Garcia was aboard 3-year-old Second to No Other. This time, he “struck [the] horse in the head at least 3 times.” For this – now his fourth whipping offense – he was suspended just 14 days.

So to recap, Flores-Garcia meted out over 15 lashes to one horse, and struck another in the head at least thrice – all within 30 minutes. And he got his wrist slapped.

People often ask why racehorse cruelty can’t be prosecuted by local or state DAs. The answer is twofold: First, prosecutors will and do argue that the Racing Commission is a state agency, and it handles all racing-related matters, including punishment of the wayward. Second, though, is the state, as a rule, gives deference to what is referred to as “common industry practice.” Racehorses have always been whipped, therefore it is not viewed and treated as animal cruelty.

But even if that were not the case, making matters worse, New Mexico cruelty law gives an out to abusers: “Cruelty to animals consists of a person negligently mistreating, injuring, killing without lawful justification.” “Without lawful justification.” It is lawful at NM racetracks to whip horses, so that particular form of mistreatment – that cruelty – would be considered justified anyway. How disgusting is that?

Should you be interested in voicing your outrage:

Zia Stewards: 575-492-6086 (or 6087)
New Mexico Racing Commission: 505-222-0700
Racing Commission staff, including individual stewards: here

A few notes from the Stewards Minutes for Del Mar’s opening weekend…

Nov 11: “We posted the inquiry sign to review the start of the 1st race involving the #6 Infinite Empire, who stumbled leaving the starting gate. In a unanimous opinion we felt the #6 caused her own issues when she stumbled, therefore no change.” Yes, the 3-year-old enslaved animal “caused her own issues.”

Nov 12: “We posted the inquiry sign after the 9th race to review the start of the #10 Azure Star, who broke very slow. When reviewing the video, the #10 was fractious in the starting gate and as the assistant starter was wrangling with the horse, the starter dispatched the field causing the #10 to be left behind.”

Nov 13: “Jockey Tyler Baze [was] in to review yesterday’s 8th race for an incident at the 1/4 pole…. Mr. Baze stated that all the horses in front of him were bouncing off each other which caused him not to be able to determine where to go.”

And best for last…

Nov 13: “[Jockey] Bravo stayed to represent Jockey Emily Ellingwood, who was called in to review her ride in yesterday’s 6th race in which she kept using her crop after she had reached her maximum placing. Mr. Bravo stated that Ms. Ellingwood told him that she was trying hard for the trainer to drum up business and the trainer asked her to educate the horse.” Ellingwood’s “penalty”: one-day suspension, $250 fine.

By the way, the horse – 2-year-old Beskar – finished 9th, 18+ lengths back, with the chartwriter noting that he, too, was “fractious” before the race.

This is horseracing.

Paul McGreevy is a veterinarian and ethologist, and Professor of Animal Behaviour and Welfare at the University of New England in Australia. A few years back, Dr. McGreevy wrote the following in The Conversation:

“Given there is no evidence to show that whipping horses doesn’t hurt, I decided to find out whether having my leg struck with a racing whip, as hard as jockeys whip horses, would cause me pain and distress.

“Well, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’, and the thermographic images I took clearly show heat at the site of impact. In the image below you can see white areas of inflammation in my upper leg 30 minutes after it was struck – only once.”

McGreevy concludes: “[W]e must assume that, just as I felt pain and distress from the impact of the padded whip, similar whipping in a horse would also cause pain and distress.” Case closed, again.