This is a column I never thought I’d write. Never say never. Horse racing has made it difficult to stay positive the last few years. I have delved into most of the issues. A select few I have left alone for personal reasons. I don’t like sharing my political views with anyone who didn’t ask for them. This is not about politics.
The other day I heard a song on the car radio I had not heard in a while. I listened to the words and it seemed like the song could have been written just the other day. It is a few years old. The song is Where is the Love by The Black Eyed Peas. If you want to know what I mean take the time to google the lyrics.
Two lines stayed with me.
“Father, Father, Father help us. Send some guidance from above cause people got me questioning where is the love?”
The other was:
“Can you practice what you preach or would you turn the other cheek?”
Although I avoid certain topics as a matter of personal choice, I have never really been one to turn the other cheek. I am not going to do it now. There were many times in my life I made wrong choices, violence at times was one of them. I don’t know sometimes it just seemed the right answer, and yeah a good fisticuffs can be therapeutic.
Social media despite all the anonymity it allows, reveals a lot about a lot of people. Show me your interactions, likes, re-tweets, and I have a decent idea of what I am dealing with. TVG Analyst Ken Rudulph says a lot of things I disagree with, and at times think he is way off base about. Any interactions we have had have been pleasant. People can disagree and remain courteous. Heck, life is a horse race, we all are not supposed to agree and see eye to eye on everything.
Trainer Eric Guillot is a pretty active Twitter personality. I never paid much attention to him. The little I saw I found to be what I’d call silly humor. That changed today.
He ran a horse in the first race at Aqueduct today named Grape Soda. The horse won and paid $11. I would have thought nothing of it. Just a name to me or so I thought. Not so fast.
I saw a Tweet from Eric touted a recent work by the horse and saying he breezed 49.3 in a “smooooth menthol kool” spelled just how I spelled it. It ended with a black hand thumbs up sign. Eric is a white man.
Then I saw a second tweet indicating the horse was named “in honor” for a certain TVG analyst, and another with a laughing face three times and a “Gif” of a black man making a quiet sign.
Most in the horse racing Twitter community know Ken Rudulph is outspoken and pulls no punches regarding his views on race and racism. He also shares many personal experiences he has had in that arena. He does this openly and forthright.
In light of this it became pretty obvious to me this horse was named after Ken. I asked a few people what the name Grape Soda could mean in this case. I did some Google research as well. I will give the Jockey Club the benefit of the doubt here and say maybe they were ignorant as I was. I thought at first it was just a flavor of soda. It is and it isn’t.
Once I digested this I felt disgust at Eric Guillot, and worse, at the industry I love. This was and is anything but cool. This is actually the opposite. It is not cool, not cool at all.
The words to that song came back to me. Would I turn the other cheek. No, I wouldn’t.
“But if you only have love for your own race, then you only leave space to discriminate, and to discriminate only generates hate, and when you hate then you’re bound to get irate, yeah madness is what you demonstrate.”
I truly hope the industry and specifically the Jockey Club corrects this unfortunate oversight on their part. As for Eric, I hope reading this touches you and others who may have found the name amusing, or worse, and you realize we should be asking ourselves where is the love? We certainly know where all the hate is. Maybe it is time we start looking for the other thing, in each other, but more importantly in ourselves.
Mr. Rudulph, and all offended by Eric’s poor decision, I apologize on behalf of the industry I grew up loving and supporting. We need to be better. I start here.
Subsequent to this article, and the story being published by most of the racing publications, and some in mainstream media, the Jockey Club had the name revoked and the new owner, Larry Roman re-named the colt Respect for All. NYRA and 1st bet announced Guillot would be denied stalls at their tracks and any entries would be refused. How that impacts Guillot remains to be seen as he announced his retirement before the story even broke and seemed according to his Twitter feed to already be on the road. If the now named Respect for All wasn’t claimed one has to wonder would Guillot have been on the road so fast. It seems as if the claim was almost expected.
There is an unwritten rule in the racing claiming game. You don’t claim a trainers last horse. Of course not every claiming trainer follows that school of thought and it was not followed here. The horse was an RNA for 95K, but ran for 25K and was claimed by Rob Atras.