Victor Espinoza, who drew criticism for his use of the whip during his ride on American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby, was fined $300 by the Santa Anita Park stewards May 8 for "causing a break in the skin" with his whip on Stellar Wind during her 5-1/4-length victory in the Santa Anita Oaks April 4.
The criticism on Espinoza's May 2 Derby ride comes from estimations in several published reports he whipped American Pharoah 32 times on the final turn and into the stretch. Kentucky chief steward Barbara Borden told the Louisville Courier-Journal May 6 that officials plan to review video of the Derby stretch run and the rider's use of the whip.
"We watched it many, many times prior to making [the result] official and that wasn't anything that got our attention," she said.
According to the Santa Anita stewards, the "break in the skin" on Stellar Wind was reported to them by the state veterinarian Tim Grande, who discovered it in the test barn after the Oaks.
"Three hundred [dollars] is for the first offense," Santa Anita steward Scott Chaney said. "I think he's had a couple in the past, but it's been several years. Three hundred [dollars] is the first time and it goes up pretty quickly after that."
Espinoza wasn't available for comment Friday afternoon, but his agent, Brian Beach, said stewards had not contacted him about the fine.
"I wasn't made aware of it by the stewards, but I'm surprised to hear it," Beach said. "Victor has a high regard for his horses and all animals in general. I know he would never do anything intentionally to harm them."
Stellar Wind's trainer, John Sadler, said he wasn't aware of any injury to the filly after her win in the Oaks.
"I don't remember any break on any skin on the horse," Sadler said. "This is the first I've heard of it and I don't remember noticing any marks on the horse then."
A California Horse Racing Board rule to limit whip use will be enacted and enforced in California beginning July 1. The rule will no longer allow jockeys to strike a horse more than three consecutive times without giving the animal a chance to respond.