By T. D. Thornton
Jockey David Cabrera was on the lead and under pressure aboard an 8-1 filly approaching the final furlong of the fourth race Feb. 10 when the whip slipped from his grip and skittered uselessly behind him in the Oaklawn Park slop.
The 25-year-old rider didn’t waste much time before instinct kicked in. He ripped down a pair of goggles from atop his helmet with his right hand and used them as a substitute crop to propel the 4-year-old La Key (J P’s Gusto) forward, prevailing by three-quarters of a length in the $76,000 allowance (VIDEO).
Such a spontaneous tactic is not unprecedented in North American racing. Nylon helmet covers, for example, have occasionally been employed in this manner over the years.
But in the state of Arkansas, striking a horse with anything other than an “ordinary whip” is explicitly forbidden.
Thus, on Feb. 16, Cabrera was hit with a $200 fine from the Arkansas Racing Commission for violation of state Rule #1214, which states, in part, “No electrical or mechanical device or other expedient designed to increase or decrease the speed of a horse, or that would tend to do so, other than the ordinary whip, shall be possessed by any one or applied by any one to a horse at any time.”
Cabrera, who entered Friday’s racing first in wins (18) and second in earnings ($678,299) while competing in his first full season at Oaklawn, won’t be appealing the ruling according to his agent, Jose “Joe” Santos, Jr.
“I think David feels the same way that I do, that if he didn’t do that, then he wouldn’t have won a $76,000 pot, so you’ve got take your fine if that’s what it comes down to,” Santos said via phone on Friday. “It definitely was a difference-maker in getting her home, so I’m glad he had the quick thinking to do that. It’s just a fine for the jockey. The purse doesn’t get taken away. No fine to the owner or trainer, nothing like that.
“David told me there have been a couple times in his career when he dropped the whip, and that was the first time he’s ever thought of the goggles,” Santos continued. “He said he tried shaking the reins at her and gave her a little kick, and it just wasn’t the reaction that he wanted. He knew he had more horse left. It was just kind of spur-of-the-moment thinking and he decided, ‘All right, time to go to the goggles.'”