Catalyst, an Australian science show, recently ran this segment on the whip. The entire program is worth a look, but one quote in particular stands out. Australian Racing Board chief 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.”

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The “old days”? 2009. Yes, that’s right, here we have a prominent racing executive admitting that as recently as five years ago, 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.

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Through a “Public Records Act” request, I have confirmed the following 14 raceday kills (the Commission did not forward training deaths, so this list is far from complete) at Louisiana’s Fair Grounds in 2014:

3-year-old Aunt Meanie, January 1, Fair Grounds 9, “fracture distal limb”

3-year-old Classic Ford, January 4, Fair Grounds 10, “fracture fetlock”

2-year-old Top Data, January 20, Fair Grounds 9, “acute fracture”

3-year-old Hickissippi, January 23, Fair Grounds 10, “open fracture”

3-year-old Warrior’s Image, February 1, Fair Grounds 9, “acute fracture”
chart merely said “went wrong, vanned off”

3-year-old Astronomer, February 17, Fair Grounds 1, “open fracture”

6-year-old The Program, March 6, Fair Grounds 8, “fracture”

2-year-old Miss Da Sunrise, March 7, Fair Grounds 4, “fracture”

9-year-old Coppers Fit, September 5, Fair Grounds 6, “acute fracture”
chart said finished fine

2-year-old Game Obsession, September 5, Fair Grounds 7, “open displaced fracture”
chart merely said “fell”

4-year-old Oh Juliet, December 21, Fair Grounds 5, “open acute compound fracture”

3-year-old Wide Eyed Ide, December 29, Fair Grounds 5, “displaced slab fracture”
chart merely said “pulled up, vanned off”

3-year-old Four Lakes, December 31, Fair Grounds 3, “compound fracture distal limb”
chart merely said “pulled up, vanned off”

2-year-old Exit West, December 31, Fair Grounds 5, “compound fracture distal limb”
chart merely said “went wrong, pulled up, vanned off”

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The following horses were raceday casualties on American tracks last week:

Reported as died, euthanized, or “broke down” – racing-speak for dead
Soft Shoulders, Turf
Only Josie Knows, Santa Anita
Criminal Element, Sunland

Reported as “vanned off” – left via ambulance, a better-than-even chance of dead
Dancing Commander, Will Rogers
Jetrunaway, Louisiana
Lydgate’s Proof, Mountaineer
Jitterbug Shoes, Oaklawn
Morgans Corner, Penn
Macaffer, Tampa Bay
Rio Grey, Tampa Bay
Maleeh, Aqueduct
Complimenting, Laurel
I Forget, Penn
Believe Too, Santa Anita
Grand and Regal, Fonner
Cheers for Sidney, Gulfstream (later confirmed dead)
New Splash, Sam Houston
Go Trumpy Go, Santa Anita
Moldavite, Aqueduct
Bluffalatta, Fair Grounds
Hot Rock Hallie, Los Alamitos
Stolis Bud, Sunland
Undercover Kitten, Gulfstream
Movin a Legacy, Los Alamitos
Lisafinishline, Rillito

Other
Devil’s Silent, Aqueduct, “stumbled badly,” DNF

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In the 7th race at Santa Anita yesterday, Only Josie Knows, two days shy of her 5th birthday, broke down and was euthanized. In yet another example of the relatively worthless nature of racehorses, witness this Blood-Horse article on the “spill”:

Jockey Tiago Pereira was taken to the hospital March 29 after a spill in the seventh race at Santa Anita Park. Pereira was thrown into the air and hit the grass when 5-year-old mare Only Josie Knows broke down in deep stretch of the mile allowance/optional claiming turf race. After an extended amount of time on the grass surface, the jockey was lifted into an ambulance on a backboard and appeared to be equipped with a neck brace.

Pereira was taken to Methodist Hospital, immediately southwest of the Arcadia, Calif. track, but x-rays showed no damage and the jockey was released. Agent Joe Griffin said Pereira’s back is sore, but that he is resting at home. “It really is amazing after that spill,” Griffin said.

Only Josie Knows, by Rio Verde out of Dinner Bell, by Alydeed, was owned by Josie Goldberg and trained by Oscar Garcia. She sustained a compound fracture in her right front leg and was euthanized.

Not until the final sentence of this multi-paragraph write-up do we learn the horse’s fate. Why? Because beyond her capacity to earn for her people, Only Josie Knows did not matter – not in life, certainly not in death. This is horseracing.