Was Rachel Alexandra whipped too much in the Woodward?

25 thoughts on “Was Rachel Alexandra whipped too much in the Woodward?”

  1. Yes he would have gotten days in England. But realistically, Calvin is hardly the strongest whip rider around. Now if Ramon Dominguez had been riding her–or Kieren Fallon in England– I would check her for serious welts.

  2. You can’t be serious. Was she whipped too much ? Was Macho Again whipped too much ? He was being whipped just as much but no one has said a word. This is a joke drop it please.

  3. Sadly, many participants in our “sport” still don’t get it, while we continue our industry’s downward spiral. Whips and whipping are two separate but related issues that impact racing’s ability to attract and keep fans.

    It’s probably a good thing that we had woeful national TV coverage of the event. The sight of a gallant and genuine filly like Rachel, who leaves it all on the track, being whipped repeatedly is a turn-off to huge numbers of fans and would-be fans. The sight of Macho Again being repeatedly whipped is also a turn-off except that he does not carry the visibility and emotive significance that Rachel does.

    It would be fitting if Racing Commissioners and Jockeys were also whipped repeatedly in order to (perhaps) improve their performance.

    Draynay, this is not at all funny … and the only thing that should be dropped are the whips.

  4. Draynay,

    Actually, I’m serious, and I’m sorry if you mistook this discussion for a joke. Not sure if you’re a fan, bettor, or horseman, but there have been many across the racing spectrum, including horsemen, who’ve commented on the whipping — seriously.

    For example, Mr. Whiteley, above, is an outstanding breeder of racehorses and an eloquent commentator on the sport. Ms. Gina Rarick, an American trainer in France, posted a comment on the link to the blog post above that said, in part, “And Calvin Borel set racing back a LONG way with his flogging session on Rachel Alexandra the other day.” Experienced horseman Michael Motion, father of trainer Graham Motion, wrote a letter in TDN that said, “Jack Luxemberger’s letter concerning excessive use
    of the whip by jockeys is ‘right on the money.’ To see
    a jockey flailing with successive sharp ‘left and right
    backhanders’ to an outstanding filly who is clearly
    giving her all is a disgrace to our sport.”

  5. Well, he flogged her in the Haskell too, whipping into the deep stretch when she already had the field put away.
    The whip was overused.
    Calvin keeps saying he’s not hitting her hard, but for sure in the Haskell his hand was raised above shoulder level before he brought the whip down. That’s not a love tap.

  6. Come on!!!! get off the
    peta kick! do you think kids watch a wide reciver in the NFL get his head knocked off is to much? America surly does not, how about Boxing……its an Olympic sport sure the world as a whole does not think so…….Ok lets go exterme MMA it happens to be one of the fastest grow sports out there. But, a 125 pount man whipping a 1200 hundred pound horse oh my!!!! it so brutle!!!!! you people kill me! this is just another reason why horse racing is being held back, you a experts are bringing unwanted attention to nothing! And mined you this is not England! This is America!

  7. Personally, I support banning whips altogether (padding them may have just about the same practical effect, but is harder to market to newbies). However, Borel didn’t whip RA more than dozens of other jockeys whipped dozens of other horses on the same day, to single him and her out (for at least the second time on this topic) seems arbitrary, and thus unfair.

    I also suspect there is, as in so many things regarding RA, a solid component of inappropriate anthropomorphism involved: She, the daring damsel, needs our special attention. The second place finisher? Nah, Not so much! After all he’s got that Macho thing right in his name.

    Again, I am absolutely pro tougher whipping regulations (or banning them altogether), but I would love to see this issue addressed not only if the horse in question is a filly with a human name. Colts and geldings can break down just as well, and prospective fans do not only get appalled if RA is whipped, they will just as much (rightfully) find it unacceptable treatment for some bottom-level claimer at Pleasanton.

  8. Malcer,

    Mr. Whiteley touched on the anthropomorphism of it as well, as well as it being Rachel. However, after reading a letter by a reader in TDN who actually counted the “lashings,” I went back to the video to see if he was right. And, he was. RA actually gets twice as many shots as Macho Again, and it’s pretty flagrant. And isn’t it always the high-profile case that acts as a lightning rod? A singer like Rhianna gets battered by Chris Brown and it’s front page, but Mrs Jane Doe gets battered everyday and nobody knows — or talks — about it.

  9. “Mummy, why is that man hitting that horse ?”
    “To make it run faster ”
    “But what if it can’t run any faster ?”
    “Then he’ll keep hitting it until the race is over”.
    “If I ever have a horse, I won’t hit it, it’s cruel. And I certainly don’t want anyone else hitting my horse.”
    Your comments Mr Jackson, Mr Asmussen, Mr Borel ?

  10. Elgin,

    The NFL changed rules long ago to stop the brutality of the sport. Mothers were not letting sons join when they were young, and women were not watching football. Football is still brutal, but a generation later, they make piles and piles of money.

    UFC brought in rules to stop the brutality; the sport exploded.

    As for the times, they have changed. As one of the “jughead” bloggers noted recently, as that sport changed their whipping rules: (http://viewfromthegrandstand.blogspot.com/2009/09/last-word-for-while-on-whipping-history.html)

    “Why all these changes? Fifty years ago no one thought anything about someone drowning a litter of puppies in a pond or throwing them into an incinerator to get rid of them. Get caught now, you will end up in front of a judge and possibly going to jail. Like it or not, people’s sensibilities towards the treatment of animals have changed. One option is people can accept change and adapt, which this rule change is attempting to do or the other option is to fight the new reality and stick up for the way we did things in the past and join all those people who worked in the greyhound industry that are now working at McDonalds, collecting unemployment or welfare.”

    I was once against changing whipping rules, but after watching it in harness racing and watching some reaction around the sport I am 100% for doing something. I think it makes a whole lot of sense. I think it is time to join the century. Whipping’s time has come and gone.


  11. Very sensible PTP…I’d be all for whip rules that actually meant something…unlike England’s. I’d go for a rule that allowed striking the horse only for a course correction for a horse who’s creating a danger to others. But someone else will have to figure out how to write that.


  12. Watch it again. Borel’s stick is mostly hitting Rachel’s saddle cloth, not her skin. Don’t just pay attention to his arm movement, pay attention to where the stick is actually landing.

    And in the last couple of jumps he brings it forward to her shoulder area but he’s only waving it at her and not connecting.

  13. Separate issues to me as I do not think he was connecting hard with the right handed whip after watching the replay several times. Steve is correct that it was landing on saddle cloth and not a powerful stroke. The left handed whipping earlier in the stretch looked like he meant it as much as you can tell from the camera angle. Calvin was hitting her in rhythm with each stride on the right side in the end – I imagine riding for his life and the inherent fear of being blamed if she ever loses a race – and in turn, losing the mount.

    Now that said, Borel is in a tough spot, because whacking America’s sweetheart is not a selling point for the sport. Albarado looks like he is not riding hard as compared to Borel, but Robby had a lot less to lose, too.

    I take more issue with Calvin whipping her as she pulled away in the Haskell than hitting her as she tried to hang on in the Woodward, and when Borel wanted to avoid the accusation that he did not ride her all out to the wire.

    Until we ban the whip or at least employ whip rules as other countries do – it seems rather hypocritical to criticize Borel. Del Mar just suspended a rider for 10 days for NOT using the whip last week and being nipped on the wire. The sport needs to make up its mind if it wants to appeal to mainstream fans.

  14. Barbara,

    Your definition of “connecting hard” may differ from someone else’s.

    Steve Haskin wrote: “Rachel, who was now being barraged with a series of 13 right-handed whips from Borel. ”

    Frank Mitchell wrote: “…Rachel Alexandra, flat to the boards throughout the stretch, is giving all she has, and despite this, is getting a steady right-hand and left-hand thrashing from Borel.”

    Kerry Thomas wrote in saying the skin surface of a horse is so sensitive that it’ll flick its tail just to get rid of a fly on it’s rump.

    “Connecting hard,” therefore, is a matter of opinion.

  15. Sid,


    Hitting Rachel is not ever going to play well, is it? And Borel’s comment after the race that hitting her does not make her go faster begs the question of, well then, Calvin, why did you whip her so much?

    I think Haskin got it right when he said that Calvin seemed to think the whip was necessary in that moment. My take is that the man is under tremendous pressure with Rachel and did not want to be the reason she lost by a head.

    She surges three times in the stretch – really quite amazing for her to keep finding more. She won’t even let them ahead in the gallop out.

    I like your blog. Might be the smartest one out there.


  16. Sorry I may be too late getting into this subject, however…………………………….

    This is not a brag, but I was riding racehorses before most of your commentators were born. Anyone younger than 67, please pay attention.

    There should be an outright ban on whips. A whip is NEVER necessary in a race. All the nonsense about whips being essential to safety is just that: NONSENSE.

    When a horse of any breed is being given basic education, a whip may help correct some faults or stop a vice. Once a horse goes into competition a whip cannot “persuade” or “encourage” it. Flogging is much more likely to produce exactly the opposite effect. A horse that is running it’s heart out can only conclude it is being flogged as punishment for what it is doing – running as fast as it can run. It will ultimately quit trying to please. That is why there are so many sour horses. A horse cannot speak, but it is not “dumb”.

    Our society stopped flogging criminals. Why do we continue to flog animals that have not committed any offence?

    Padded whips !? Anyone out there willing to offer themselves for a taste test?

    It is time to quit all the baloney. Whips should be banned outright.

  17. I wouldn’t at all mind a ban on whips.

    I would also be willing to be the human guinea pig for the padded variety. I’m a big boy. I can take it. … I mean, the challenge HAS been issued.

    Might result in a heck of a blog post …

  18. Sid,

    As Glenn Craven (who is bravely not living-up to his name) has picked up the gauntlet, can you arrange the event?

    Guess we shall need some terms of agreement on procedure and so on, i.e. how many blows, standing or running like hell, the administrator, AND “Jockeys” on or bare-arsed.

    Venue will also be critical. Perhaps we can get national TV coverage or at least TVG and HRTV.

    Of course, the whole idea may be nixed because of the generally unfavorable view on sadism and masochism. If that forbids the event, then why the devil does the whipping of horses debate continue? The answer is right there.

  19. The problem with these koolAid drinkers who keeps defending Borel is they want to believe that Rachel is this great great horse that is being hand ridden all the time when in reality this poor filly has been whipped 23 times in the Woodward just to stay ahead of Macho who was only whipped 9 times. What’s even funnier is the comments, that Borel was not really whipping her or he was only hitting the cloth. Then Borel makes a comment after the race that she does not run any faster when whipped. WHAT? It’s like Borel’s comment in the Haskells. Oh I just tap her a little.
    This filly was taken to the very edge of her ability against not so great horses. Why do you think she is not going to the Breeders? The class there is way above the horses that Rachel has run against this year. Oh wait it’s the plastic!
    Sure, I believe that like I believe Borel. Seriously!!

  20. Yes, I think that she was hit too many times althouh I agree that Borel does not have the punch that a Dominguez has.

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