In the past four years, HorseRaceInsider has lost readership because its executive editor chose to speak out against injustice and criminality in support of his country, guided by the single greatest manifesto in the history of nations, a Constitution insisting that a country conduct itself under the rule of law.
Since 2007, HRI has had the temerity to have as its mission “the conscience of thoroughbred racing.” That didn’t help Search Engine Optimization, either.
To live up to the standard it set for itself, HRI has taken on issues that may not make racing-media headlines, instead taking the lead from the tone set by fans and horseplayers on social media. Horse racing and the Internet were made for each other.
When we agreed with the critics, we said so, and added editorial support to causes borne of righteous concern. And when we disagreed, we said so, and called out critics’ lack of fairness and, resurrecting a phrase from politics past, disparaged the ‘nattering nabobs of negativity’.
Birth of a Nation
One day after Louisiana-bred trainer Eric Guillot made it known that “Grape Soda,” his winning first-time-starter at Aqueduct Racetrack on Friday, was named for TVG host Ken Rudulph, a Twitter adversary and a Black man, the industry responded with indignation that was swift, unflinching, and highly commendable.
In the race’s aftermath, social media comments referenced earlier Tweets from Guillot showing a pattern of slights that intentionally slurred the host, not “honor” him as Guillot claimed. The Tweet included an emoji of a Black fist.
Guillot later tried to walk back his remarks, claiming on Twitter that he named the horse after his favorite childhood drink. At that point Rudulph already had called the trainer out on social media.
Guillot has a history of posting racially charged comments, including one last summer which referenced a Harriet Beecher Stowe novel on slavery. Guillot subsequently denied any knowledge of that Tweet.
As stated, the industry’s response was swift:
“The Jockey Club was notified yesterday that the name Grape Soda was potentially offensive. Upon review we have confirmed that the name is ineligible under the rules of The American Stud Book…and we have begun the name change process,” read the statement.
“Racism is completely unacceptable in all forms,” said David O’Rourke, New York Racing Association President and CEO. “NYRA rejects Eric Guillot’s toxic words and divisive behavior in the strongest terms.”
The NYRA has denied Guillot stalls and will not accept his entries. Neither will any of The Stronach Group racetracks.
“1/ST Racing stands firmly against the inexcusable actions of trainer Eric Guillot,” CEO Aidan Butler said. ”Our company will not tolerate the use of hateful and divisive language or behavior. Mr. Guillot is no longer welcomed at any 1/ST RACING track.
Rudulph responded to the smear on air: “The winner in race one from Aqueduct is the perfect example of my issue with horse racing. The winning trainer is a disgusting and racist man,” adding “if you want to make money in this game you have to be able to ignore that stuff. I can’t do it.”
In support “TVG commends NYRA for taking swift action on the matter involving Eric Guillot. There is simply no place in society for racism and we condemn his behavior, a deliberate attempt to slur one of our employees. Our network will no longer air races in which he has an entry.”
Parenthetically, I was unfamiliar with the term myself. I consulted an online Urban Dictionary and learned it had two definitions; one intended as a racial stereotype, the other an oblique allusion to the use of a date-rape drug.
Ray Paulick reported on this story earlier, as did Joe Drape in the New York Times. The Paulick Report, which earlier suspended then reinstated its comment section, was flooded with reaction.
Seeking public opinion, we randomly culled eight of the first 14 relevant comments. [Edited for brevity], comments addressed the incident specifically, but political overtones seemed inescapable. Politics intersects with everything in America, especially since Wednesday:
“Interesting how quickly a trainer can be ‘barred’ for something like this when it takes years in the courts to get rid of one who repeatedly breaks the medication rules.”
“I have numerous times muted TVG as they are always dissing one trainer or another. I guess they can dish it out, but not take it. ‘Grape Soda’, really? I can’t see how that could possibly be racist.”
“Someone better tell the ‘Crush’ soda gang that their ‘Crush Grape Soda’ is offending people in every grocery store, supermarket, and convenience store in the country!”
“It’s not that Grape Soda is offensive. [Guillot] chose to use it in a racial way. [When he made] racial social-media posts regarding the horse’s name and the TVG host he named the horse for, he chose to get banned.”
“The only way this story makes any sense is if today is April 1st.”
“Nothing is wrong with naming a horse “Grape Soda” on its own, the problem comes when a guy with a questionable background dealing with minorities uses a racial stereotype to mess with a black man he dislikes. It’s not about terminology, it’s about context. Don’t know much about the trainer but if this is how he chooses to get at people he dislikes, then it’s hard not to see him as a racist.”
“Stop with the manufactured outrage over censorship and feigned ignorance over why this sort of behavior should not and cannot be tolerated. Guillot is free to spout his vitriol but he has to suffer the consequence.”
“The problem with this trainer, apparently in his own words, is he intentionally chose the name to racistly taunt Mr. Rudulph. There’s nothing good about that or his apparent past racist comments on social media.
Words Have Consequences
On whatever side of the aisle one sits, a fair-minded observer would agree the past four years were much different than at any other time in Presidential history and it resulted in tag des zerbrochenen glases,
Day of Broken Glass.
As the events of January 6 indicate, the tenor of the country is as far from aspirational America as one can get. The message sent was one of hatred based on race and ethnic stereotypes that served to awaken the darkest demons of our nature.
Assorted American militia, hate groups, and misanthropes, numbering in the millions, are armed and are awaiting new orders. And thus far the Pentagon has refused to recognize Wednesday’s lawlessness for what it was, shamefully terming it a “First Amendment Protest.”
God blessed America this week. The coup–along with its leader, his enablers, and thousands of riotous participants—failed, despite a curious lack of will to stop the onslaught.
That means they are emboldened and are odds-on to try even harder next time.