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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Meadowlands Whipping Rules Are Going to Change

Well, the proverbial bug has hit the windshield as a result of the HBO Series "Luck".  As you may already know, the second season of the show has been cancelled as a result of a third horse being euthanized during filming. 

While this involved thoroughbred racing, the cancellation proves the American public will not tolerate cruelty to racehorses.  All aspects of horseracing from illegal drugs and whipping are going to be under the microscope.  As you can tell from the following press release issued by Jeff Gural, it has already started.

Gural Addresses PETA Concerns Toward the Treatment of Racehorses

  I think by now most of us are aware the HBO series “Luck” about thoroughbred racing has been canceled due to the fact that apparently three horses have had to be euthanized during the filming of the series. Obviously, this is a black eye for horse racing and is receiving a lot of publicity. 

  On a different note, I want to make everyone aware that about a month ago I was contacted by Kathy Guillermo, Vice President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) expressing her concern that they had received numerous complaints about horses at the Meadowlands being whipped and receiving illegal medications to enhance their performance. While I share her concern about the illegal medication issue and have already taken steps to hopefully monitor that situation, I assured her that under no circumstances would I tolerate any horses being abused as a result of the existing whipping rules. 

  I am pleased to report that I have met with the drivers and judges and we are in the process of making changes to the whipping rules at the Meadowlands and possibly the type of whips used in an effort to convince PETA that the horses are not being abused. I have agreed with PETA that once we resolve the whipping issue we would then focus on the drug issue as I believe they can be a positive force in getting the government, including the state police and racing commission to put more resources in place to solve this problem.

  In any case, I just wanted everyone to be aware that they can expect changes in the whipping rules at the Meadowlands and abuse to any horse racing at the Meadowlands will not be tolerated.

Say what you may about PETA, the debate is not about that organization.  While PETA may have been the group that spoke to Gural, in this case PETA is speaking for the American people.  The American public has no stomach to see horses whipped, nor do they want to see horses treated with illegal drugs.  As far as the general public is concerned, they want horses racing on hay, oats, and water.

Now while I believe harness racing can be contested without whips, I don't expect that to happen initially.  What I anticipate is a rule change which will be a step towards the outright elimination of whips as this industry is so tradition bound that horsemen are going to be arguing that you can't get rid of whips as we have always used them.   That being said, it will be interesting to see what they come up with at the Meadowlands.

After the situation with Barboro and Eight Belles, "Luck" is the final straw.  If you have three horses being euthanized in the filming of a television series, the general public is going to be wondering what really is happening on the racetrack.  Like it or not, the game will be changing.  Think I am wrong?  Why do you think the Liberal Party in Ontario is able to eliminate the Slots at the Racetrack program?  If you look at the comments to articles in the Canadian media, if not written by a person who obviously is involved in racing, the comments echo the alleged cruel aspects of horse racing.  The Liberal Party can get away with their decision because racing lost the support of the average Ontarian.


Anonymous said...

Think PETA knows horse killer Marc Mosher was given a trainer license in Pennsylvania? Harrahs Chester better look out for pickets.

JLB said...

I think the producers of "Luck" overreacted, as the third death involved, I believe, a horse rearing in the stable area-this has nothing to do with alleged cruelties of racing.

Having said that, I think Jeff Gural continues to show his progressive thinking. He has no doubt seen that Canadian handles have improved despite the implementation several years ago of "one line in hand" rule. He realizes that PETA reflects the feelings of a growing segment of the population, and his move is definitely the right one.

Finally, as an owner of 24 years in this business (medal, anyone?), I had the pleasure of jogging 300 horses and training fast miles a half dozen times. I think the whip is indispensable, not to coerce faster speeds, but rather as a safeguard in case a horse balks or shies. A tap of the whip can be the difference between a horse regaining its focus, and a driver dumped on the ground, possibly with a severe injury.