However, the stretch drive reminded me of the Nancy Sinatra Song, "Those Boots Were Made for Walking" and I can't help but think a parody of the song called "Those Boots Weren't Made for Kicking" should be made for kicking, booting or whatever you want to call it by Tim Tetrick and Brian Sears was on full display as they battled down the deep stretch.
Last I read, kicking a horse was against the rules in racing states and is the case in Kentucky as Section 1(15) indicates:
Section 1. A leading horse shall be entitled to any part of the track. After selecting a position in the home stretch, a driver of a horse shall not do any of the following things, which shall be considered violation of driving rules:
(1) Change either to the right or left during any part of the race if another horse is so near the driver that in altering positions, the driver compels the horse behind to shorten strides, or causes the driver of any other horse to pull the horse out of his stride;
(2) Jostle, strike, hook wheels, or interfere with another horse or driver;
(3) Cross sharply in front of a horse or cross over in front of a field of horses in a reckless manner, endangering other drivers;
(4) Swerve in and out or pull up quickly;
(5) Crowd a horse or driver by "putting a wheel under him";
(6) "Carry a horse out" or "sit down in front of him", take up abruptly in front of other horses so as to cause confusion or interference among the trailing horses, or do any other act which constitutes "helping";
(7) Allow a horse to pass inside needlessly or otherwise help another horse to improve its position in the race;
(8) Lay off a normal pace and leave a hole if it is well within the horse's capacity to keep the hole closed;
(9) Commit an act which impedes the progress of another horse or causes the horse to "break";
(10) Change course after selecting a position in the home stretch and swerve in or out, or bear in or out, in a manner which interferes with another horse or causes the horse to change course or take back;
(11) Drive in a careless or reckless manner or fail to maintain reasonable control of the horse at all times during the race;
(12) Whip under the arch of the sulky;
(13) Cross the inside limits of the course;
(14) Fail to set or maintain a pace comparable to the class being raced, including traveling an excessively slow quarter or any other distance that changes the normal pattern, overall timing, or general outcome of the race; or
(15) Kick a horse. Removal of a foot from the stirrups in and of itself shall not constitute the act of kicking..
True, removing your foot from the stirrups itself doesn't constitute kicking and it's true, ear plugs may pulled by the foot. However, I don't think physical contact with the foot and horse should get a free ride; especially when it happens multiple times in a race.
Whether you want to say it is kicking, booting or something else to just spook a horse a little is not the point. It is against the rules and fines and penalties need to be handed out. For one thing, it is against the rules and judges have an obligation to call violations when they see it. Another reason is it doesn't look good with respect to the humane treatment of horses. You can talk until you are blue in the face but if you have a newbie at the track, all they know is the horse was kicked by the driver; the motive or rationale doesn't matter to them. What you have done is turned them off.
In my last blog entry, a reader mentioned the fines are not high enough to discourage kicking. That may be the case but if judges don't call the penalty, it doesn't matter how expensive a fine may be. Fines must be high enough that they act as a deterrent, and they must be called. Racing is a gaming sport, one people wager on and the industry has an obligation to call penalties as they are dictated in the good (rule) book. Could you imagine regulators watching a blackjack game and ignore the fact a dealer has 17 in his hand and decides to take another card and ends up with 19? It would never happen as the players would walk away from the game. Racing gets so few new gamblers, that we can't afford to have them walk away.
Perhaps there is an inventor out there who can develop a system where a foot leaving a stirrup signals to the judges of the potential violation. The judges could then review the video tape from that point to see if the foot was used to make contact with the horse and if so, a generous (expensive) fine be handed down and if a repeat offender, a mandatory vacation may be called for.
PTP talks about how social media felt about the kicking. Let's put it this way, few were talking about the actual race itself.
Trot Radio in Canada has an interview where they talk about RUS racing in Ontario. In Ontario, the are hoping to be part of the pari-mutuel program in 2014. There is an interview with Julie Walker, President of RUS Ontario which is worth listening too.
Perhaps it is RUS racing in Canada is primarily restricted in Ontario as the drivers get together to train both themselves and horses in RUS whereas in the states, participants are more spread out making it harder to organize wide scale training sessions. Regardless, hopefully it won't be long until parimutuel wagering on RUS events takes place in the States.