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Monday, August 27, 2007

Tale of Two Whippings

- An anonymous commenter, referring to the death of Indian Flare on Sunday, asks: Whip abuse in the Ballerina? Paul Moran, writing on Newsday's At The Races blog, agrees:

With the filly he rode while setting a blistering pace -- :22.27, :44.57 – for a half mile spent after five furlongs, Javier Castellano repeatedly whipped Indian Flare between the quarter and sixteenth poles... This was unnecessary and cruel. Indian Flare was going nowhere. The whip is not a form of punishment and Castellano should be standing in front of the stewards on Monday. [At The Races]
Moran actually goes further, and questions the instant diagnosis of a broken pelvis by track vet Anthony Verderosa, noting that the filly ran straight and true until tiring, and questioning how he could make that diagnosis unless he's gifted with x-ray vision. The term cardio-vascular shock casts a wide net.

But even without the conspiracy theory (and without necessarily discounting it, conspiracy theorist that I can sometimes be), I did consult the head-on replay (as usual, I'll refer you to Cal Racing), and regrettably must report that the jockey was indeed whipping the filly long after she was done, and even as she was nearly back to last as far as I can tell from that angle. I say 'regrettably' because I generally give these guys the benefit of the doubt when questions of judgment arise. And because, while I've never met Castellano, I've always thought him to be quite an agreeable sort based on my observations of his interactions with others on the backstretch and in the paddock.

In the case of Russell Baze, he obviously screwed up when he whipped his wounded mount late in the game. But a guy doesn't win a zillion races like he has without a burning competitive spirit, and I think we clearly saw that get the better of common sense. He deserves his suspension, but one can at least get a sense of what was going on in his head. But in the case of Indian Flare, I have no idea what the rider was thinking, and there doesn't seem to be any way to rationalize it at all.


Anonymous said...

funny you should mention this incident, Alan. I was watching this race Sunday and Castellano's whipping of that fading filly totally caught my eye. The way he hit her, I was wondering if he had a huge bonus on the line if she finished in the top 9. It was way out of line and he should pay the penalty.

Anonymous said...

From the detail given by Verderosa - the fracture was displaced and there was considerable blood vessel damage - it sounded like an X-ray or necropsy had been done. Did Moran bother to talk to the vet about how he came to the conclusion?

ljk said...

OK. First I'd like to see the whip eliminated or greatly reduced. I think it's a crutch for trainers/jockeys and presents a poor image if we're trying to attract young fans to the game.

Having said that, to criticize JJ for whipping the filly "from the quarter pole to the sixteenth" is silly. The horse was LEADING at the quarter pole. If he'd stopped whipping there we'd criticize him for not perservering. So maybe he was using the whip too long for a hundred yards or so between the eighth and the sixteenth. If we're going to start to criticize jockeys for whipping tiring horses, there'd be a long list.

The vet's account sounds silly too. The horse fractured her pelvis "at the break" and still ran a quarter in 44.5? The vet's accounts were posted online too soon for a necropsy I believe. It sounded to me like he was taking a guess.

It's not like the filly broke down and was euthanized. She collapsed while being unsaddled. It was very strange, but it looked clear that she was dead well before the ambulance arrived. I believe the cardiovascular explanation, a heart attack or something such. I don't believe she ran 44.5 with a broken pelvis. Maybe her pelvis broke collapsing to the ground.

Very sad whatever the explanation.