Sunday, June 22, 2008

Eight Belles to this post

In the Sports Illustrated that came out on May 26, 2008, the Point After department on the last page was written by Selena Roberts and was an argument for abolishing the whip in horse racing.

From the article:

  • Fair or not, someone had to be to blame for the chilling end at Churchill Downs on May 3, when Eight Belles broke her two front legs after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby and had to be euthanized on the track. So PETA fixed on [jockey Gabriel] Saez, accusing him of whipping the filly mercilessly – he struck her at least eight times down the stretch – and calling for his suspension.
  • But just when my inner Mister Ed started to go sweet on Saez, he defended himself with loopy logic. "The whip is half a pound, and the horse is 1,200 pounds," he explained. "It doesn't do anything to the horse."
  • Who knows the pain tolerance of a horse? And why beat its hide at all?
  • Take the whip away and vanquish a symbol of cruelty. This wouldn't merely be a sop to PETA - it's a move industry types from legendary jockey Jerry Bailey to race caller Trevor Denman support if it can help restore credibility to every owner and trainer who proclaims that the horse's health is a priority.
  • "I keep getting told the jockey needs the whip for control," says Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, an equine orthopedic researcher at Colorado State. "I think we've got reins to do that."
  • [Trainer Larry] Jones counters with the New Coke approach: "If they want to go to a lighter whip, where the horse would still hear the popping sound, I'd be great with that." But lighter is still visible. It's public perception that empowers the PETA point of view[...]"
  • Perception?" Jones said with a smile [...] "I know it's about perception. But I also know some people who say they use whips in the bedroom. Now to me that wouldn't be good. But hey, it's what they like."
  • Eight Belles didn't have a choice.
Three weeks later, in SI's June 16, 2008 issue, the Letters page featured this letter:
If Selena Roberts feels that horse racing is cruel because jockeys often resort to a half-pound whip, perhaps she should turn on mixed martial arts and see humans beating the snot out of each other.
Did the letter writer not read the last six words of the piece? Eight Belles didn't have a choice. Humans - when engaging in mixed martial arts - have chosen to give and take abuse.

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