By: Peter Monaco
On Feb 13, in the 8th race at Tampa Bay Downs, Daniel Centeno seemed well on his way to victory aboard R Baby Driver. The duo sat off the early pace and made steady advancement on the outside of the leaders on the far turn and collared 113/1 front runner, Goforthegusto at the 1/8 pole. R Baby Driver was a length and a half in front with about 50 yards to go and if you had this even money shot to win, you were home and cozy by the fire with a blanket, a cat and some cocoa. Centeno and R Baby Driver passed everyone in front of him and no one was coming from behind and the announcer had already confirmed the win. But Centeno continued whipping the horse and when he switched from hitting right-handed to a left-handed stick, the horse severely veered out. Centeno then lost his balance, fell off, somersaulted twice and had his helmet cover knocked loose by a trailing horse. Luckily, he escaped serious injury and was treated for a leg contusion and a possible concussion. R Baby Driver is also okay.
For some, the pan angle of the replay looked like the jockey just jumped off on a favorite that was on the way to an easy score. But the head-on video that was provided later on from the track told a different story, however, and clearly showed the horse sharply veering outward. The people that were thinking Centeno must’ve bailed on purpose, were also suspicious that the two horses behind him just happened to be a million to one. This added fuel to the fire for the conspiracy thinkers. Check out these prices:
$2 Win $2 Place $2 Show
Goforthegusto 228.60 115.80 31.60
Spin Boy 59.00 26.40
Talking Point 8.60
$2 Exacta $4,288
$1 Trifecta $103,449.40
$1 Superfecta $173,062.20
It’s very apparent. and I am 100% sure, that Mr. Centeno didn’t bail on purpose and I’d like to put that to rest right now. There are plenty of (too many) people out there just waiting to pounce on trainers and jockeys for anything remotely suspicious that happens on the racetrack and then scream conspiracy. Several horse players have recently vented to me about how they were robbed, how they won’t play Tampa anymore, or bet on Centeno, and even a few that vowed to never play horses again, period. This, of course, is ridiculous nonsense and I’d assume we’ll see most of these people wagering at Tampa Bay Downs tomorrow and on Mr. Centeno as soon as he returns in the saddle. I’m glad Daniel is okay, as well as R Baby Driver.
I see a couple of races a month where horse and jockey are in front by a few lengths with only yards to go and the rider is whipping like Secretariat was bearing down on them. A good amount of these horses react negatively to the whip, so much so, that they go down, jump the rail, or just lose the race, when they were already clear and home.
And, unnecessary whippings are not limited to just horses that are in front nearing the wire. On any given day of the week, at any racetrack, you can look down the stretch and see arms flailing away like helicopter blades. A lot of times these positions were never going to change. An example might be: the horse in second place is three lengths behind the winner and three lengths in front of the third-place horse, yet every jockey is whipping like a madman.
THE GREAT ONES
Most of the great jockeys I’ve seen ride such as Shoemaker, Cordero and Ramon Dominguez, always knew exactly where they were in a race. They would constantly peer under their arms to see who was coming. They always knew where the wire was and you just couldn’t beat them in a photo finish. They were not shy about using the stick but they didn’t seem to totally rely on it, abuse it, or try to use it like an accelerator pedal. There’s just no way you’d see any of these guys teeing off on a horse that was in front by 3 lengths with 50 yards to go. That stick was put away at the 1/8 pole, as the rider knew he was home.
Besides always knowing where they were situated in a race, the greats also knew a negative reaction to the whip when they saw it. I see so many riders continue to use the whip, after the horse has shown they don’t like it. Sometimes, a horse will almost stop running and seem to stand up a bit with the first crack and resume running in between swats. This would seem like an obvious sign to put the stick away and go to a vigorous hand ride. But most times, they don’t.
I am no jockey and the only time I’ve been on a horse that was even close to going 40 mph, I was in a state of pure panic. The result was; I got thrown over a cliff and almost lost my life.
This isn’t a personal bash on Daniel Centeno. Jockeys have the hardest job in the world and it’s easy to second guess them, but it seems the whip has become a security blanket of sorts and an accelerator pedal, instead of just a valuable tool that’s available if needed.
There’s also the issue of trying to explain to the newcomers of the sport why the jocks use the stick so much. It seems most tracks are going all out these days to recruit new players, some of which might include housewives, girlfriends, mothers, aunts and young adults. It’s only logical to assume these new people would find the excessive or unnecessary whipping of the horses extremely unappealing.
The whip has been a controversial subject since horses were invented and there aren’t going to be any major changes anytime soon. Yes, different whips have been implemented in some areas and new rules about how many times you can hit a horse come and go. But I feel the bottom line is, if you ride horses for a living you should know where you are, in a race always and certainly be able to determine a negative response from using the whip from a positive one, to jeopardize your own safety, the safety of others on the track, the safety of the horse and the well- being of the bettors because you want to needlessly whip a horse is just pure insanity.