Recent rulings from various state commissions/track stewards.

In Minnesota: “Richard Magee was the driver of Steady Breeze in the 3rd race [at Running Aces] on 7/8/21; welts were discovered by Dr. Taylor when Steady Breeze arrived in the test barn.”

Welts. Magee received a mere 1-day suspension and $1,000 fine.

In Oklahoma: “AFTER FINISHING 1ST IN THE 2ND RACE AT WILL ROGERS DOWNS ON MARCH 22, 2021, THE RACE DAY SERUM SAMPLE FOR THE THOROUGHBRED HORSE ‘STAUNCH ELABORATOR’ TESTED POSITIVE FOR CAFFEINE.”

Caffeine. Owner/trainer Wayne George was fined just $1,500 and has been allowed to continue along merrily, having raced Staunch six times since.

In Wyoming: “The horse Sb Holly Wood finished second in the 4th race at Wyoming Downs on June 13, 2021. Luis Gonzalez was the trainer [and co-owner]. Following standard procedure…the Stewards ordered Sb Holly Wood to be taken to the test barn for collection of blood and hair samples to be tested for prohibited substances. Sildenafil [Viagra] was confirmed in the blood sample.”

Viagra. Gonzalez received a mere 30-day suspension and $1,000 fine.

This is horseracing.

What’s wrong with horseracing? Well, besides the unremitting solitary confinement, the drugging and doping, the on-track kills, the stall deaths – slaughter – there’s things like this from the Prairie Meadows stewards (via the Racing Commission):

“Having waived his right to present evidence and testimony to the Board, Jockey Shane Laviolette is hereby assessed an administrative penalty of $250.00 for excessive or indiscriminate whipping of his horse, ‘Basic Chance,’ during the running of the ninth race on June 19, 2021. Test barn IRGC veterinarian reported to the Board ‘Basic Chance’ arrived at the test barn with an open welt on his right flank.”

That Shane Laviolette is an animal abuser – and should have been arrested for animal cruelty (except that Iowa, not surprisingly, exempts abuse that occurs at a racetrack) – goes without saying. But a lousy $250 – with no suspension – for “excessive or indiscriminate whipping” that led to an “open welt”? Vile beyond words. By the way, Mr. Laviolette was presumably beating his charge so hard because of the money at stake: In “winning,” the 7-year-old Basic brought home $35,000 (this was the “John Wayne Stakes”) for his people, including, of course, Laviolette.

The whip, of course, is an instrument of abuse; it motivates a racehorse to run faster through pain and fear. Anyone with a working set of eyes can see that. Even the pro-racing equine medical director of California, Dr. Rick Arthur, knows it: “There are those who argue that whipping doesn’t hurt horses, but that’s nonsense, and we all know that. Whips are noxious stimuli; they hurt, that’s why they’re used. Run fast or I’ll hit you again.” (International Conference of Horseracing Authorities, 10/7/19)

For its part, the industry tries its damndest to convince us that the “riding crop” – they refuse to use the word whip – is but a harmless guide, an indispensable tool that helps protect both horse and rider. But in 2021, rapidly evolving public sentiment – it’s more than just “optics” – is forcing their hand. The result is ever-more-restrictive strike rules and new designs – the “kinder, gentler crop,” like this one:

I don’t know, still looks like it packs a wallop to me. Anyhow, I quite enjoyed jockey McCarthy’s assessment: “The horses will respond to it but, you know, not get overabused as well.” That’s right, Mr. McCarthy, not get overabused, because your propaganda (“steering,” “encouragement” – love that word) aside, you know full well that, as I said at the top, whipping a horse, whipping any domesticated animal, is, at the very least, garden-variety, root-word abuse. Period.

Last month at Santa Anita, according to the Stewards Minutes, 19 horses were scratched prior to their races for sickness; 11 for injury; and 7 for “unsoundness.” Then this: On March 5, “Jockey UMBERTO RISPOLI was in our office to review his crop use in Sunday’s eighth race. Mr. Rispoli did not have an excuse, other than to say he simply miscounted. Unfortunately [italics added], this was his fourth offense in last sixty days.” So what did the Santa Anita sages figure was a reasonable punishment for 4 whipping violations in 60 days? A three-day suspension.