The “B” Word: Banned from Racing


Banned from racing.

While it is dumbed down to the easiest of terms, it’s a phrase that the industry struggles to implement as actions. Why it’s a problem, is confusing to me.

In the past couple of years, we as an industry have been rocked by many instances that would qualify as a gross misuse of power over the innocent, and it took massive public outcry to elicit a response from the powers at be.

Even still, the offenders often got off with a slap on the wrist for the severity of their crimes and racing took yet another black eye for the simple reason that no one seems to be man enough to permanently bid someone adieu from the sport.

While racing had prided itself on how well they treated their horses and how far we had come in terms of punishing cheaters, the sore spot continues to be the debate surrounding what is enough of a punishment. One such example of this dilemma occurred in Pennsylvania.

Penn National came under extreme scrutiny when the track stewards handed down an initial suspension of only 45 days and a fine of $500 to “trainer” Mario Rafael Rodriguez, who had allowed his horse, Silent Ruler, to stand in a stall with a broken leg for better than a month. His injured right limb had swollen to the size of a grape fruit, he was displaying ALL the signs of a horse in distress, and that punishment is suggesting that NO ONE noticed this…for 30+ days? That this lapse of attention was somehow accidental.

Did they need a neon sign to tell them that something was wrong?

The boarder line homicidal outcry from the public prompted the stewards to increase his suspension to a year.

A year.

Of course, they claimed it was due process that caused the wait, but their comments since then don’t do much to raise hopes of that being the entire truth.

Rodriguez’s staff and he, SAW this horse suffering every day, and their response? List him on CANTER to hopefully pass him off to a bleeding-heart that would pay for everything later; NOT get a veterinarian like every other competent individual would have done in his case. This was not a situation were DIY vets are appropriate, but alas, that’s what happened.

This is torture.

They tortured the gelding and Rodriguez got a suspension for a year and a paltry fine. It will cost the rescue almost $12,000 to rehabilitate Silent Ruler, and the most he’ll ever be able to do is walk comfortably, and there’s no guruantee of that either.

Rodriguez, on the other hand, was going to walk free if not for the fact that a horse had reportedly died in its stall, in his barn, on the day that his suspension was increased by the racing commission.

The commission investigators FINALLY decided to look further and found two more injured horses: You R Wonderful, and Kisses for Love. Two others also died: Lee’s South and Platinum Sensation. Every single horse in his barn was examined over the course of four days and this “trainer” hadn’t noticed that one was catastrophically injured, and two were jogging lame.

If there was ever a poster boy for a permanent ban, it’s this sham, masquerading around under the title of “trainer” and “horseman”. This was the perfect case for a permanent ban; a kick in the rear end and no farewell party.

But they suspended him.

The “comedic” part of this is when Pennsylvania commission officials demanded that a veterinarian close to the case stop telling the truth because it was making them look bad. Here is the link to that article, with those comments toward the end, and I encourage you to send them a respectful letter, outlining about how their own behavior makes all of us look.

Does the commission seriously believe that he’s going to be a different person when his license gets returned to him later this year?

If this had been a case of innocent ignorance, or a repeated misstep in registering horses, I would (cautiously) understand a year suspension. Learn from your carelessness and return a better trainer; that’s the point of suspensions.

This situation was not the case, and people like this don’t just change because they got suspended. We do not need people like this in the industry! Even if he plead ignorance to equine vital signs, do we want a man who doesn’t know the basics of horsemanship training HORSES?

What more does it take to ask someone to leave and not come back? Restaurants have tossed out customers and refused their return for harassing the staff but racing can’t ban someone like Rodriguez?

What do you see wrong with this picture?