Another Slap in the Face to Our Equine Stars

Courtesy of Becky Johnston

California steward Tom Ward thinks the racing public is too sensitive right now, because of Jeremy Rose's "accidental" striking of a horse across the face with his whip repeatedly. 

So I guess, we should just give Garrett Gomez a pass because he admittedly hit his filly across the mouth Sunday, after her race.  Seems like six in one hand and a half dozen in the other.

The filly Eissoai, belonging to trainer Bobby Frankel and owner Patricia Bozano, was making her sixth career start, but her first in this country after winning two of her first  five races in Brazil.

The filly was racing at the back of the field of six in Sunday's third race at Del Mar, a mile and a sixteenth allowance event.  She was traveling very well for Gomez down the backside saving ground on the rail, nice and straight.  

Coming through the final turn heading for the stretch, the filly was moving at a quickened pace.  Gomez reaches around and hits her left-handed with the whip while still in the turn.  The filly that was moving like a winner is suddenly startled and her series of calamities begin with a swishing of her tail.  Gomez appears to be in full panic mode with his rein action and reaction.  It was a mess, both jockey and horse.  

Here is where the controversy begins.  After the wire, Gomez says he's still having trouble with the filly.  Over a hundred yards past the wire he slaps the lightly-raced filly across the left side of her face, the mouth to be specific, with his riding crop.  The public has seen it and the complaints start rolling in.

Stewards Scott Chaney, Tom Ward and Randy Winick, have allowed some rough riding this meet, so their in-action probably shouldn't be a surprise. 

But I am surprised. One wonders if Mr. Ward has his own set of rules.  The CHRB rules state:. 

Rule Number 1688 - Use of Whips

(b) Although the use of a whip is not required, any jockey who uses a whip is prohibited from whipping a horse: (1) on the head, flanks, or on any part of its body other than the shoulders or hind quarters

I realize that you can use the whip to control your horse in the post parade and after the wire, but nowhere does it negate this rule, that you cannot hit the horse in the head or flanks.

In the report, Ward said to Gomez "You were just a passenger in this race, weren't you?" 

In court, I believe they call that leading the witness.

If you cannot ride a horse without cruelty, don't do it.  Mr. Gomez states that he was too weak so his only option was to strike her across the face.  I wonder how surprised he would have been had she thrown him off at that point.  I credit the filly for having more consideration for him than he did for her.

My take on this, is that it is a cut and dry violation of the rules.  You do not whip a horse across their face.  The rules are in place to be enforced.  Mr. Gomez' actions could have resulted in injury to the filly or caused her to take evasive action and injuring other jockeys and their mounts.   After all, this isn't the first horse that Mr. Gomez has lost his temper with and struck across the face.  I doubt it will be his last.

November 11, 2005 Gomez was riding the gray gelding Wildberry Road in the first race at Hollywood Park.  The #7 Thunder Maker swung out and bumps Gomez' mount turning into the stretch causing Wildberry Road to be thrown offstride  to the right.  The head-on shot transitions on the bump, but you can clearly see it on the pan view.  After Gomez gets the gelding eased up and given at least nine strides past the point where he was forced out, the jockey's anger overcomes him.  Gomez raises his whip and twice strikes the horse viciously right-handed across the face causing the horse to wince with each blow.

(You can see this race at by date 11/11/2005 Hollywood Park Race 1)

This incident was reported to the CHRB at that time and to my knowledge Mr. Gomez was given another lollipop meeting and sent home..

If the stewards feel so comfortable with his actions on July 27, 2008 let's see the video.  The occurrence has been conveniently cut from any replays, either the head-on angle or pan views of the race.  Let's see the video and let the public come to their own conclusion about the events.

Richard Shapiro and the CHRB have made big waves about taking care of these animals, by putting in safer surfaces and banning steroids, and penalizing trainers that administer illegal medications with a 60-second penalty.  If they can somehow excuse this one with no punishment, how do you excuse both of these incidents?

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