According to the Daily Racing Form, jockey Victor Espinoza administered 32 whip strokes to American Pharoah during the running of the 2015 Kentucky Derby.  This aggressive degree of “urging” naturally generated much discussion.

My personal opinion on Espinoza’s actions is irrelevant and may not be representative, so I won’t offer it.  For the sake of analysis, set aside our individual opinions and emotions for the moment and ask a dispassionate question:

What effect did Espinoza’s whip use have on public perception of horse racing?  The answer is of paramount importance, of course, especially for a sport and business that has experienced declining attendance and pari-mutuel handle and has repeatedly been accused of inhumane practices.

Suppose we asked a representative cross section of the adult population in the United States to consider a factual statement and then to answer a follow-up question:

Fact:  In the 2015 Kentucky Derby, the winning jockey Victor Espinoza used his whip 32 times on his mount American Pharoah.

Question:  How do you feel about this amount of whipping?  (Please circle the number that most closely reflects your opinion.)

Not Abusive    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    Abusive

Now instead of asking the general public, suppose we narrowed the sample to a representative cross section of people who derive their livelihood from the horse-racing industry.

How do you think the results would turn out in both cases?  The view here is not at all well for the image of horse racing, even among horse-racing insiders.

Whip use in races can and should be dictated by rules and regulations.

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