The “Essex Handicap” at Oaklawn yesterday was worth a cool $500,000, with the difference between 1st and 2nd $200,000. With that in mind, take a look at the beating jockey Ramon Vazquez administered to his mount, Rated R Superstar, down the stretch (Rated R is the 3 horse):

Folks, if this isn’t animal cruelty then what, pray tell, is?

“Last year more than 100,000 people attended the Melbourne Cup, with more than 3 million watching the race on TV in Australia alone. This would have to make whipping in horse-racing the most public form of violence [italics added] to animals in Australia today, but most people don’t seem to notice it.” (Dr. Paul McGreevy, The Conversation, 10/28/14)

As advocates, it can be easy to get lost in any number of Horseracing’s sordid aspects: 2-year-olds, drugging/doping, corrupt “connections,” negligent vets, claiming races, etc. But for me, focus should be trained on three above all:

First, Horseracing kills horses. Lots of them, every day. And this says nothing of the multiple thousands of recently “retired” who are bled-out and butchered each year.

Second, (daily) life for the typical racehorse is unfathomably mean: Locked – alone – in tiny 12×12 stalls for over 23 hours a day, racehorses, according to experts, suffer similarly to human beings kept in solitary confinement.

And third, the horserace itself exists, can only exist, through force – the primary instrument of which is a whip. A whip. On this, Racing’s age-old lie (painless “guide”) has conditioned otherwise decent people to ignore their very senses, eschew a common sense. Well, this is intolerable. So at the risk of insulting the intelligence of many of you, let me state (shout) what should be the clear, the plain, the obvious: Whipping a domesticated (enslaved) animal – any domesticated animal, for whatever concocted reason – is cruelty defined. Absolutely, unequivocally, beyond all doubt.

Sadly, though, some still ask for “scientific proof.” Enter Paul McGreevy – veterinarian, ethologist, and professor at the University of Sydney. Follows are some highlights from a McGreevy-penned article that originally appeared 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.

“My view is that – because there is no evidence to the contrary – we 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.

“Representatives from the racing industry will doubtless say horses have thick skin and are therefore immune to pain from whip impacts but there is actually no evidence of such pain resistance in horses. Indeed, horses can feel a fly on their skin such that it triggers a characteristic shake called the ‘panniculus reflex’.

“As sports journalist Patrick Smith recently wrote: ‘If whips didn’t cause pain there would be no use to them'”.


In the 10th race at Parx July 27, jockey Hector Caballero raised his right arm high and proceeded to give his mount, Belongs to Babe, a loud crack (with his whip) on the neck – after the finish. (I reported on it at the time but unfortunately the short video documenting the abuse was subsequently deleted from Twitter.) We now learn that the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission held a hearing on July 30 and rendered the following verdict: a 10-day suspension (which he is currently serving). 10 days – for public, blatant animal abuse. And that, folks, is horseracing.

In the 7th last night at Penn National, Saint Michael “was eased up lame in the stretch then was vanned off.” According to a source, however, while being “eased up lame,” the 4-year-old colt was still being whipped – right till the wire. (I have reviewed the replay, but unfortunately the camera cuts away from Saint Michael before the finish.) Why, you may ask? Well, in this particular race (a cheap “claiming,” by the way: all horses were “For Sale” at $4,000 prior to), cash was paid 1st-5th. Saint Michael came in 6th, about 3 lengths behind the $300-winning 5th-place finisher. The jockey whipping a lame – and now quite possibly dead – horse in the hope of bringing 300 bucks to him and the other “connections”: Jose Rojas.