Buzzworthy: Was it excessive whipping in this race at Batavia?

by Garnet Barnsdale

A reader wrote in and suggested that I should watch the 9th race from Batavia Downs last Sunday with reference given to the way the 3rd-place finisher, Cartoonist was driven, thinking it merited mention in this column.

In the interest of full transparency, I think there are a couple of things I should point out before discussing this race and the drive given by J D Perrin to the 7-year-old gelding in this non-winners of $2,500 in the last five starts pace for a purse of $4,800. First of all, I am not an anti-whipping zealot. Having been around horses a bit, I somewhat understand their behavior and the need for a whip as a training aid and as a means of correction. I am also a bettor and when the horse or horses I bet are coming down the stretch, I want to see that maximum effort is being made to win a race, and that means urging, most times using a whip. Still, there are supposed to be limits.

In this race at Batavia, Cartoonist was allowed to leave fifth in a six-horse field and sat in until the horses reached the top of the stretch for the first time, heading to the 1/2-mile pole. He was then sent first up and given four one-handers in front of the stands. Down the backstretch, Perrin continued to urge Cartoonist, while he maintained position and he even advanced a bit on the turn after appearing to stall momentarily.

Coming down the stretch to the wire, Perrin wound up and whipped Cartoonist one-handed no fewer than 11 times, with the final one being right on the wire, but the gelding also managed to hold third, so it could be argued that he responded to the zealous urging by Perrin.

The reader’s complaint was that the driver in this case was not punished for what he though was egregious whipping action. I consulted the United States Trotting Association Rules Book for an explanation of what constitutes a whipping violation and found that it is basically up to the discretion of the judges:

§ 18.11 Brutal, Excessive, Indiscriminate Use of Whip.—The brutal use of a whip or crop or excessive or indiscriminate use of the whip or crop shall be considered a violation and shall be punished by a fine and/or suspension.

When consulting the list of fines on the USTA’s website, it looks like they are reported weekly for the week previous and this appears each Friday. At press time, the information wasn’t available, so it isn’t entirely evident if Perrin has been suspended for this drive or not. Perrin – who has an impressive record of 94 wins from 387 starts and a .401 UTRS as a trainer this year, has driven only 15 times, recording four wins, the most recent of which was a wire-to-wire score with Cartoonist on August 20th.

At least one reader thinks he should get some time off for this drive. The video evidence suggests that perhaps he may have a point.