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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

IN PRAISE OF INDUSTRY’S REACTION TO RACISM THAT COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE TIMELY

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.

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⚠ Before you comment

Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Comments from those who cannot comply will be deleted. Thank you.

25 Responses

  1. As much as any of us might dislike the TVG presentation (I am not a fan), garbage like this is beyond unacceptable. The sport has enough challenges as it is without our sport being used by racists to play out their ignorance. Good riddance and get lost Eric; you wont be missed.

  2. Doc, we agree on all major issues.

    I must admit, too, that I’m not a fan of Rudulph as a host. I don’t mind bringing humor to the table, but think it’s a bit over the top and, in my opinion, his analytical skills as a handicapper are lacking. But that’s not his primary role as a host:

    Hosting panels is about making the analyst look good, asking the right questions and being a good traffic cop, moving the program along while, at times, juggling three or four tracks. I did this for several years at Capital OTB and the job is not as easy as it might appear.

    But your point on the bigger issue is correct; there’s no room for treating people of color in a disparaging manner, especially at this point in our history, especially in an industry that is not as tolerant as it should be.

    Wherever one stands politically, there is no doubt the events of JAN 6 were in large part racially or ethnically motivated at its core. And, by the way, it was a black man who led the evil-doers away from the Senate chamber while badly outnumbered.

    They have two words for that; patriotic hero.

    Thanks for weighting in, Doc. The silence on this topic has been as disturbing as it is deafening.

  3. I’ve not followed Mr. Guillot current and/or past comments. If his comments were meant to attack, then he should be called out for them. Here’s where we need to be a forgiving nation. I say that if Mr. Guillot is sincere in a apology to Ken Rudulph, then let give him a second chance. America’s is the land of second chances.

    Maybe if we were all a bit more forgiving we’d see the good in each other than the bad. I still believe we have more in common as Americans to bind us together than the differences that are divide us so easily.

    1. TP,

      I’m good with the spirit of all that you say. But I see the Guillot/Rudulph flap as inconsequential when compared to today’s big picture.

      I’m all for forgiving and moving on, but first justice and accountability are the priorities. If not, JAN 6 will be a dress rehearsal for further escalation. People are scared, and they should be…

  4. You know what? I am so sick of you left wing assholes Why didn’t you mention some of the other things he said About being pompous most privileged black man he knew playing race card with Black Lives Matter who are extortionists by the way condescending
    But you don’t give the other side of the story ever How about us living the “peaceful protests” everyday last summer and the Lamestream Media putting the ” peaceful” spin on it and blaming Trump Now Trump supporters get fed up after 4 yrs of leftwing crap impeachment Russian collusion Covid and on and on and you guys have a problem with it Never in the history of this country has a President been treated like Trump has
    Well you people and you Pricci can go to hell I’ll never read your column again

        1. You are incorrect.

          I would suggest that you please listen to Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R; OH – 4th District) comments during today’s shameful Impeachment Hearing for the true story.

  5. As is your right, Mr. Rogers.

    My problem is I have eyes, ears, a television set and a brain. My bad.

  6. Bill de Blasio has cancelled agreements with Trump Organization. They operate two skating rinks and a merry-go-round in Central Park. Went to see Jethro Tull at Wollman Rink back in the day. Also saw Mountain featuring Leslie West. Good times. Missed the Diana Ross concert where the term “wilding” was coined. Weather turned bad and all hell broke loose. Kinda like last week at the Capitol. A disgrace.

    1. C, you’re right of course, a disgrace on more levels that one can count. I’m afraid we’re in dangerous times as people continue to put party over human life. Unfathomable to me.

      Anyway, yes. Leslie West, Toni loved that guy, told her I’d gladly add another 50 pounds if it would help. Yes, I can still hear Scott Muni: “Mountain: Leslie West and Felix Pappalardi” Big sound for such a smallish troupe…

      1. Scott Muni had a discotheque in city called Scott Muni’s Rolling Stone. Went once to check it out. Just read online that Leslie West passed away in December. Corky Laing only remaining member of band still alive. West was pretty cool on guitar.

        1. Corky Laing, wow! As much a part of Mountain as the dueling guitarists. Guy could bang the drum! Thanks for the upset.,, and didn’t know Muni owned a disco. Put all those “bonuses” to good use…

  7. JP,
    It indeed appears that reduced readership is the price of providing ethical leadership, but there are still those of us here who appreciate and support your brand of patriotism and commitment to truth and fairness. However, even among fellow loud minority members there’s room for disagreement.

    What makes me extremely uncomfortable about the banning of Guillot is that it effectively elevates the offense of lack of civility to the level of lack of integrity. Racing’s inability to suppress the latter doesn’t promise much success with the former.

    Also, IMO, it makes an assumption about what determines a racist attitude. Surely it’s possible for someone of any race to personally dislike Ken Rudolph without being–or accused of being–one who indiscriminately dislikes black people.

    And should that sentiment trigger uncivil behavior, aren’t there other effective sanctions less severe to discourage it without depriving the defendant of his/her livelihood without reasonable warning?

    How are they planning to deal with ethnicity-based incivility between two individuals neither of whom is black?

    I’m neither defending Guillot nor condoning the indefensible conduct that has been directed at most Blacks in America for centuries, I just don’t understand how expanding hostilities after the fact cures what needs generations of education to eradicate.

    The jockey Club should not be invoking cruelty in the process of extending awareness/prevention of “cruelty to animals” to “cruelty to humans.”

  8. I,

    Another couple of hundred words and this would have made an excellent column! Not because I agree with virtually everything you stated but because there must be context in all things, which I think is what you’re saying here.

    Two things: Guillot does have a history of making postings previously that most reasonable people would deem racist. And, of course, again contextuallt, he had a personal history with Rudulph.

    Not that they need defending, but The Jockey Club did not invoke punitive action, only insisting that the offensive term be abolished and the horse renamed, which is their right as breed registrar.

    Props to the new owner who submitted the name Respect For All, which was approved and, of course, exquisitely appropriate.

    I’m wondering if some lawyer will see this and perhaps convince Guillot to “un-retire.”

    1. In today’s NY Daily News there is a editiorial page criticism of the new “name” for Guillot’s runner as well as an attack on racing in general. I get the online edition and saw it this morning. Check it out.

  9. John: Ken Rudulph does not need my assistance but I feel that he deserves the benefit of any doubt in this particular situation. I was at a professional conference at a hotel near LAX, with a huge window until a redeye back home to Long Island. With much time, and a short cab ride, I decided to visit Hollywood Park, for the first and only time. It just happened to be the day of the Hollywood Futurity, in which Declan’s Moon just beat Giacomo. Of course, 4 & 1/2 months later, Giacomo won the Derby at 50-1, and Ken’s reaction to that victory is the stuff of horse playing legend. However, earlier that day, I stood by the TVG booth, and was just watching how they operated. During a break, Ken came over to the side where myself and several other fans were standing. Ken was extremely engaging with this group of fans, and did not display any evidence of narcissism that most famous/TV people typically feature. Someone asked him a question about racing, and he merely stated that he did not know the answer. He threw it out to the crowd, and I offered the answer to both Ken and the others. Ken then thanked me for providing the answer. Hardly the actions of which this misanthrope named Guillot accused him of. Again, I’m not a famous person, but I have no axe to grind. Ken Rudulph showed me, with nobody looking, that he is a kind and decent person. He does not deserve to have his motivations questioned, especially here, where it is clear, that Guillot harbors racial animus.
    .

    1. Framarco,
      Thanks for sharing. My use of the principals’ names was only to underscore my point, not to take sides. The ease with which one person can offend another–often through misinterpretation–is all the more reason to eschew extreme measures in discouraging it from reoccurring.

    2. Great story and share Fram, thanks. As I stated above, not a big fan of his work but I root for all good people to succeed. Hope he is still the same person you met. Time doesn’t always help…

  10. Time has a way of evaluating a person’s worth, and time continuously measures us all. At some point time will account us all as well The Good, the Bad, and sadly, too often employed, the Indefensible Ugly. Persons of reason need only reflect back to what was learned in kindergarten to understand the differences.

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