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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thursday Night Notes - June 21

- Anonymous wrote:

I think concern about the whip is absurd. Most horsemen and jockeys love these horses and would never abuse them for the sake of abusing them. That said, they race for money, and if a crack of the whip is the difference between the winners check and second money, they're going to go to the whip (Mike Smith on Tiago in the SA Derby for instance). Whip use is abusive in the minds of humans, but the evidence shows that its not very often abusive to the horses. If it were, there'd be a lot more DQ's like in the Belmont race, where obviously, the horse was shying away from contact.
I've never been that bothered by whipping in the thoroughbred sport, probably because I came up through the harness ranks. Now those guys have whips, I mean, real whips like I saw on TV as a kid, long and mean, and loud, ouch! I never really thought about it back in the day, but now the whipping at the trotters kinda bothers me. Sometimes they're hitting the sulky, but other times man, they really wind up - they have much more leverage to deliver blows than jockeys do - and the thwack resounds in a small empty harness track like Saratoga. And I've seen frustrated drivers deliver an extra blow after the finish line on more than one occasion.

The Head Chef doesn't like to go to the trotters because of the whipping - she's very sensitive, you know. But I've actually never heard her remark about it at the flats. I don't know what the relative 'pain quotient' is between the two, but it just seems more benign with thoroughbreds for the most part. One notable exception is Ramon Dominguez winding up and hitting Scrappy T so hard that he almost killed Afleet Alex. I think he would have be DQ'd for that alone in the UK, according to the rules.

I'm ready to do some betting tonight, break in my NYRA Rewards account, and experience internet wagering for the first time. But all there is on TVG is the Meadowlands, Yonkers, and Evangeline. I can't bet the harness tracks because I only have 65 cents in my OTB account, and NYRA doesn't offer them. Evangeline is not a track I'm really comfortable with, especially with a 14 horse field, as in the 6th. But I could come back to it later.

The other tracks being offered by NYRA are Lone Star (a Manga track, on HRTV); Penn National and Charles Town (neither on TVG). None of their websites have live streaming; and Penn National's website is a joke. They have links to Equibase entries and results, and that's it as far as racing goes. If the private equity firms that are paying $6.1 billion to acquire the company (and acquiring another $2.8 billion in debt) see that the racing company doesn't care about the racing, how are they going to treat it when they take over?

I know, I could open accounts with an ADW to get the video online, but it's a hassle, and I don't really need or want to have more than one account; and I'd probably have to get two more accounts to get all the exclusives.

Another DQ at Belmont today, and a very similar occurrence to Wednesday, as Le Dauphin was taken down for bearing out and bumping Hunting in the feature. (One difference is that this time, the DQ'd horse was a longshot, at 14-1, and the official winner paid $8.10.) It looks like the worst of it again took place right as they approached the finish. This one, while a bit less flagrant than Wednesday's, also appears to be the right call, as there was definitely contact, and it looked like Hunting had a fighting chance to win. The difference is that Le Dauphin drifted out despite right-handed whipping by Kent Desormeaux, who will likely be held blameless for the foul. Hunting was just the 5th winner of the meeting for Shug, but his third from his last seven runners (plus a second with favored Dancing Forever in the 7th).

And another winner for Godolphin, now 10-5-1-1 on the meeting. Emirates to Dubai hadn't been out since his only race, in Dubai the UK on 10/7/2005. The chart comment says, with an uncharacteristic flourish, that he rambled clear after one left handed smack. And so he did. "Emirates to Dubai is striding away!" Durkin remarked, and he did so under a hand ride in a final furlong of 11.35 seconds, and a final time of 1:09.39. Emirates of Dubai is a four-year old son of Storm Cat, and his second dam is the great champion racemare Glorious Song, which makes his dam, by Blushing Groom, a half-sister to Singspeil, and a full to Rahy.

OK, time for Evangeline, if I haven't blogged the card away...


Harl said...

Those big Evangeline fields produce some juicy exotic payouts and you can usually find a horse or two on each card that the betting public forgets about. I'm not a big fan of Evangeline, but if I'm playing the horses at night, Evangeline is one of the few that I'll play.

ljk said...

I don't believe concern about whipping is absurd. I have little doubt that it causes no harm to the horse. But, if we're really concerned about attracting new fans, younger fans, female fans, etc. then we need to acknowledge that the IMAGE projected is a bunch of guys whipping horses to make them run fast. Next to breakdowns I think it does the most to hurt the IMAGE of the sport.

I think it's a training crutch. Phase the whip out of the sport, and trainers/jocks will find a way to give other cues; verbal, shaking reins, scrubbing.

9 out of 10 well trained horses know when it's time for the real running to begin, or are waiting for the jock to let them loose.

Nellie said...

I've managed to keep my mouth shut on this issue for a long time, but I've gotta speak my mind...

I have more experience than I'd like with this topic in riding that isn't on a track... I was the kid who felt use of a whip or spurs was cruel. So my experience is from a trainer screaming 'smack him! harder! not a love tap!' ... long story short, I came around and learned pretty quickly that a good properly timed thwack (in the right spot, of course) can work wonders. Actually, normally all I'd get was a quick flick of the ears.

Every horse is different, though - some tolerate the whip better than others, while some will freak out if they see one on the ground. It's important to remember that Thoroughbreds, while wonderful animals, are stubborn horses who sometimes need to be reminded what they're there for (think equine ADD - I've seen lovely schoolmasters suddenly lose focus because their doggie friend entered the ring). Whether in a race or heading to a jump, sometimes a little extra is necessary to keep their minds on the carrot, and for a lot of them, a whip is just the ticket. But... and this is a big BUT ... it should always be a matter of give and take.

ljk, you're right in that other cues will be found, but I think that most good jockeys who know this are already employing these tactics - unfortunately, it's the whip that we see. Some just need a simple caress in the right spot or a bit of rein. Others need that less-than-subtle reminder.

Like you say, it's mostly about image. If you haven't worked with horses, you might not know how thick their skin really is or how stubborn they can be (try moving a 1200 pound animal that's happy where s/he is). Unfortunately, I don't really know what can be done about that. We can't exactly do what this (frustrated) trainer did, which was to take my whip and tap me on the shoulder with it and say 'that's what he feels' - and it definitely does look exaggerated on screen... at the same time, though, with that speed, there isn't much time or coordination for a clean-looking tap. Crutch? For some horses, absolutely. For others, no. I'd like to trust that the trainer will recognize the most effective method and keep the horse's interests in mind.

However, I will state that I am absolutely against any form of 'encouragement' that obviously injures and/or distresses the horse. That sadly does exist in all forms of riding, whether it be whip or not.

Unfortunately, I think it's a catch-22.

Anonymous said...

i guess no one has ever seen a horses hide torn up from misuse of the whip after a race. i most certainly have and it is so wrong...perhaps i will whip no errr help you instead next time you are trying your best at whatever and not stop til i feel like it regardless of the outcome!! HA!