A horse with a racist slur won his first race at Aqueduct January 8.
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Reaction on social media and throughout the industry was swift to denounce the name and trainer Eric Guillot, who had posted a picture of the horse and its name days earlier on social media, writes Bill Finley of Thoroughbred Daily News.
“This colt will run next week and has unique name in honor of a TVG analyst,” Tweeted Guillot, with an emoji representing the Black Power fist. One of Guillot’s followers, Steven Kahn, Tweeted back at Guillot, “What’s his name??” Guillot responded, “GRAPE SODA.” He followed that up on January 2 with a Tweet that said, “GRAPE SODA breezed 49.3 smooooth a menthol Kool,” and an emoji with a Black hand giving the thumbs up symbol, and posted a gif of an African American man making a “shhh” motion.
The analyst is one Ken Rudolph, the only Black analyst at horse racing network TVG.
Guillot, perhaps sensing the pushback, changed his tune a bit claiming the horse was named after a fond childhood memory of drinking the beverage. “When I went home for Xmas my 88 year Mother got a kick out of me naming a horse after my favorite drink when I was little boy she always reminded me of it for years! I’ll send her a pic.”
The New York Times reports that trainer Eric Guillot has been banned by the New York Racing Association for taunting Rudolph by naming a horse after him.
Rudulph took to Twitter to call out racism in the racing industry immediately following Grape Soda’s win.
“The winner in race #1 from Aqueduct is the perfect example of my issue with horse racing,” he tweeted. “The winning trainer is a disgusting and racist man. But, if you want to make money in this game you have to be able to ignore that stuff. I can’t do it. But y’all carry on with your $11.”
The winner in race #1 from Aqueduct is the perfect example of my issue with horse racing. The winning trainer is a disgusting and racist man. But, if you want to make money in this game you have to be able to ignore that stuff. I can’t do it. But y’all carry on with your $11.
— Ken Rudulph (@MrKenRudulphTV) January 8, 2021
“Racism is completely unacceptable in all forms,” David O’Rourke, New York Racing Association president and chief executive, said in a statement. “NYRA rejects Eric Guillot’s toxic words and divisive behavior in the strongest terms. At this time, he will no longer be permitted to enter horses at any NYRA track nor will he be allocated stalls on NYRA grounds. In addition, we will review what further steps may be available to us. Our racing community is diverse, and we stand for inclusion.”
Guillot, whose horses have won 259 races and have collected over $13 million in purses, has been fired from Cypress Creek Equine. He is likely to be prohibited from racing at most stateside tracks.
The Stronach Group, which owns racetracks in California, Maryland and Florida, issued the following statement:
“1/ST Racing stands firmly against the inexcusable actions of trainer Eric Guillot,” The Stronach Group said in a statement. “There is no place in the sport of Thoroughbred racing for racism in any form. Our company will not tolerate the use of hateful and divisive language or behavior.
“1/ST Racing agrees fully with the New York Racing Association’s move to ban Mr. Guillot from racing and will take the same action. Mr. Guillot is no longer welcomed at any 1/ST Racing track.”
As if this weren’t bad enough, Grape Soda is actually the second horse named after a racial slur to appear on the tracks in recent months. A horse named Jungle Bunny was allowed to run at Wolverhampton in December.
– Jagajeet Chiba, Gambling911.com