MCWICKED: THE STORY OF A GREAT HORSE AND A STUPID RULE THAT SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD RULE.
WRITTEN EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE DAMIEN ZONE BY: David Mattia.
The harness racing industry is now running on some kind of demented remote control, and the folks who are called upon to police this industry are taking stupidity and super-heroics to new heights.
They’ve invented a crime against horses — a crime which isn’t really real — and then they punish people for committing this imagined crime so as to reinvent themselves as great purveyors of truth and justice and integrity.
NOTE: If you could read the squiggly black line of harness racing hypocrisy on a Richter Scale, the needle on the paper would have recorded the sudden destruction of earth’s entire crust about 15 years ago.
By inventing crimes against racing that sound to the untrained ear like crimes against animals, certain individuals are punished imagined transgressions with the strange hope that this imaginary transparency will bring back the $2.00 betting public — the cheap-seat punters who have fled the grandstands faster than a Ferrari at the Chernobyl Auto Show.
The people who once filled the grandstands and looked upon harness racing as something incredibly interesting and entertaining, now behave as though the whole place has been infected with the Ebola virus and enriched plutonium.
Strange how just a few days ago, three horses died and a few others had no feet upon which to walk, but no one within the officiating end of the harness racing industry said a word. It took over a year for concerned civilians to get the hoofless horses to safety.
Some of those horses would be really happy to have been “kicked” by Dave Miller instead of dremeled by…forget it…never mind.
The powers that be in harness racing are very non-crafty. They’ll sit quietly by and watch all kinds of strange and terrible things happen to their industry, but let one driver drop a boot from a stirrup and tickle an athletically gifted horse’s hock in an attempt to win and thereby ensure the integrity of the race, and all hell breaks loose.
EXAMPLE OF STUPIDITY AND HYPOCRISY
A few years ago, a Mexican-American trainer was handed his walking papers because his horses won too frequently. More recently, another trainer – probably from good old North American stock – wins pretty much every race and nobody says a word.
Let’s just say that the average trainer and harness racehorse owner who race at certain places in the USA are beholden to one puppeteer and they happily shrug their shoulders with the hope that they’ll pick up a second or third place finish.
The puppeteer even owns horses with the trainer who wins every race, but no one sees that as a conflict of interest — but don’t you dare let your boot brush against a horse’s hock….EVER!
Remember in “GLEN OR GLENDA” when Bela Lugosi’s character shrieks, “PULL ZEE STRINGS! PULL ZEE STRINGS!” Try to keep that image in your head and enjoy the rest of this insane horror story.
Are the people who police harness racing aware of the order in which they place their strange anxieties? Probably not — because, again, desperate people often do desperate things.
HERE IS WHAT HAPPENED – THE PLAYERS
There’s a great pacing horse named McWicked. He is a champion 3-year-old who has done everything right.
He comes from a top stable where he is treated like a king. When his reign on the track is over, McWicked will stand in stud — something that only happens to about .004% of male harness racehorses.
While in stud, McWicked’s star-treatment will get bumped up a notch or two. In other words, IT’S GOOD TO BE THE KING.
Then there is a harness racing driver named David Miller — one of the greatest harness racing drivers of all time, and a guy who minds his own business and has somehow managed to avoid scandal in an industry where scandals grow as tall as delicious and disease resistant GMO corn.
David Miller has brought nothing but good to harness racing. He has brought to the track his quiet, unassuming demeanor, and his class, and his great skills at winning races. That is what he is hired to do and that is what he does. His racing colors are purple and white and his fans call him “Purple Jesus.”
THE NON INCIDENT.
Last Sunday, David Miller, drove McWicked to victory in a very prestigious $301,650 stakes race at Dover Downs — a racetrack/casino in Delaware, USA.
McWicked won the race like a true champion — going the long, hard route to win the race in a highly impressive time of 1:48.4/5ths over the distance of one mile.
McWicked has won 21 of his 23 starts and his bank account now stands at $1,472,000.
For less than two minutes work, Dave Miller, earned himself $7,541. Not bad — but that’s why Dave Miller is a champ and why he deserves every cent he earns.
As the horses hit the top of the stretch in the big race, and it looked like McWicked was really going to have to give it his all — and most horses never do — Dave Miller let his foot drop out of the stirrup and gently tap against the hock of McWicked. Note that I did not use the word “allegedly” because David Miller admitted to doing this.
While the horses all around him were getting stung by whips, McWicked instead felt a weird thing touching his left hind leg.
For that moment, during the most decisive part of a horse race, McWicked probably thought, “What the heck is that touching my leg?” Being an animal who runs on instinct, McWicked hurried along a little.
Sadly, most horses grin and bear the sting of the whip and go nowhere, but tickle their leg with the tip of a boot and some of then will really take off — they give you that little extra UMPH — and sometimes that’s the difference between winning and losing. To the bettor it’s the difference between cashing in a winning ticket or ripping it up and calling everybody a crook.
The bettors are there to win, and since McWicked was heavily backed by the bettors, it would have really sucked if he didn’t win. In fact, if David Miller had intentionally tried NOT to win — and it could be proven — he would go to jail.
David Miller does not engage in stupid stuff like that. He drives to win. Sometimes he throws in a clunker or the horse he is driving isn’t up to snuff — but that’s why it’s called horse racing.
In any case, it didn’t matter. McWicked won the race easily — tickle or no tickle.
So what did David Miller do to McWicked that was so horrible?
Well, for what it’s worth, David Miller let his boot drop out of the stirrup and tap against McWicked’s hock, and for some insane reason, this is viewed as the cruel violation known as — KICKING THE HORSE.
You might say, “But he didn’t kick the horse,” and you would be 100% correct.
To kick the horse, Dave Miller would have had to stop the horse during the race, slide out of the sulky, walk up and stand beside the horse and KICK HIM. Would that hurt the horse? No, it would not.
David Miller, if he could kick hard enough, would probably just break his own foot in the process — and of course he would lose the race by about 1/2 mile because he stopped to get out of the sulky and literally kicked the horse.
So then why do they have this stupid rule and why is David Miller in trouble? He didn’t hurt the horse in any way. What’s the deal here?
Why was Dave MILLER issued his “STRIKE ONE” and fined $750.00? Why was harness racing intentionally humiliating itself simply because a great horse and a great driver combined to put out a great performance for the few remaining fans who care?
THE REASON FOR THE INSANITY
The deal is that once upon a time there was a driver named Walter who was alleged — and later proved to be for reasons unrelated to horses — a really bad boy.
Not only was he a really bad boy, he was perhaps the greatest harness racing driver to sit behind a trotting or pacing horse. Part of his talent rested on the fact that he knew how to get a horse to put in a top effort just about every time.
Yes, he used a whip, but he wasn’t a brutal enforcer. He was just a very gifted driver with a great pair of hands, a great sense of pace, and a keen knowledge of his equine and human opponents — but he was a bad boy otherwise.
Like so many extremely talented young people, the bad boy had demons that supposedly involved drugs and alcohol and the usual. He got in trouble for those things and he served out his fines and suspensions — but you can’t have a guy like that around your racetrack, right? Of course not.
In spite of it all, the bad boy was hanging tough and winning races and annoying the hell out of everybody who had an ax to grind. He started getting fines and suspensions for kicking his horses. Well — they had to get him on something, right? Al Capone killed 10 people but he went to jail for income tax evasion.
So, as the really bad boy’s life went into a downward spiral, and the kicking offenses started to pile up. The really bad boy got in really bad trouble outside of the racing industry and was essentially blown off the harness racing map for all eternity.
He deserved what he got, but he didn’t literally KICK horses. He let his boot brush against their hoof as it passed during the horse’s long stride. He did this to win, and in spite of all of his demons, the one thing the bad boy didn’t do was cheat or try to NOT win a race.
This incredibly bad boy was loyal to the minions in the grandstand who bet the rent money on him.
Alas, Walter was gone, but the newly invented and over-used phrase — KICKING THE HORSE lived on. And it sounded really nasty. It sounded so nasty that it made anyone who punished a horse kicker look like a knight in shining armor.
I guess this is what happened at Dover Downs. The place is a casino and harness racing is the albatross on the casino’s back. Nobody really goes there to watch the races, but now, like all the other harness tracks in the USA, some crazy people have that weird idea that clearing the races of all horse kickers will bring in new fans.
They’re wrong. All they did was make a great race and a great driver look really bad, and they turned a heroic horse into an imaginary tragic victim. Good grief!