Skip to Main Content

Update: Illegal Shock Devices Smuggled Into Horse Races (Video)

Written by Alisa Mullins | April 28, 2014

Update: Victory! Just days after we asked it to implement stricter rules to protect horses from jockeys carrying electro-shock devices, Churchill Downs announced, “All jockeys will be subjected to magnetic wand scans prior to the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and other random races.” These scans will detect buzzers that may be hidden in jockeys’ clothing and should have a chilling effect on anyone even thinking about shocking a horse to make him or her run faster.

Originally posted on April 25, 2014: 

With the Kentucky Derby—horse racing’s biggest event of the year—just over a week away, PETA has sent a letter to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission asking them to implement a zero-tolerance policy against shock devices by rigorously searching all race participants, including their clothing and equipment.

Even though electric shock devices—also called “buzzers,” “batteries,” and “machines” in racing parlance—are illegal, they’re often smuggled onto racetracks in a variety of ways. A PETA undercover investigator recorded a top jockey and trainer bragging about the many ways that they and others bypassed checks, including hiding a buzzer in underwear and in a horse’s blinder. Veteran jockey Roman Chapa reportedly once even hid the device in his mouth.

Said Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, “We used to go behind the gate at Ruidoso [Downs], and it was just like it was a full-blown orchestra—zzz, zzz, zzz. Everybody had one.”

PETA is especially concerned about protecting horses in the derby because three jockeys with an alleged history of using buzzers are likely to participate in the race: Ricardo Santana, whom trainer Scott Blasi referred to as a “machine jockey” for his frequent use of “machines”; Calvin Borel, whom a whistleblower alleges frequently hides buzzers in his clothing; and Gary Stevens, whom PETA’s investigator caught on tape bragging about using buzzers. If a horse needs “a little help. … You gotta plug him in,” Stevens says he was told early in his career.

What You Can Do

To borrow from the old cowboy expression, the Kentucky Derby is more hat than horse. While spectators show off their fancy outfits and sip mint juleps, horses are literally running for their lives. Because the horses aren’t fully protected, even from electro-shocks, please don’t support the Kentucky Derby in any way, including by watching it on TV or placing an offtrack bet.

Commenting is closed.
  • Kevin Pantera says:

    August 4th last race at Saratoga 2013. Joel Rosario was given somthing on the rail horse by a gate boy right before they let them go. Took it in his left hand. Right before the gate opened. Could see it clearly on TVG, hidden on the NYRA feed. Then after he won the race you can see him giving something to the outrider and the outrider putting it in his belt. They (jockey and outrider) clearly waited till all of the other horses turned to go back to the barn, then he passed it to the outrider. You can clearly see the outrider placing it in his belt. What was the outrider doing up with that winner anyway? The horse was not in distress, he was just there to get something from the jock. Then in the winners circle the trainer went right up to the jockey and pertended to be congradulating the jockey and put his hand right by the jockeys hand for a hand off. His eyes (Rosario) made contact with somebody in the circle as if to say I already dumped the item with the outrider. What a sham. It was as plain as the nose on your face. Very bold. If I can see this clearly as a patron where are the racing officials at. What a crooked farce. Look at the film, the pick 6 paid $87,000 somebody had it. It just was not you or me

  • MJ says:

    I pity the horses, more for those people who are blinded with money, for they will never see true happiness that the horses will show in their eyes when they are taken care of than being abused. This is not the end for you. Please do the right and compassionate act now.

  • bellasue says:

    These horses are pretty much born into constant abuse. This is just one more thing they have to go through. People are ignorant. “Horses love to run”. Whens the last time you saw a horse in a pasture take off and run wide open for a mile until his leg snapped. They would only do that out of fear. How dumb can these people be to think a 2 or 3 year old baby wants to run down a track on a hot day with some jerk beating and shocking the crap out them the whole way. Yes they are still babys you morons, even in horse years.

  • Shame on you Gary. Funny how the commentators on Kentucky Derby Day still hold you in this exalted position when you are a scumbag like so many people in your trade.

  • Good Job PETA and all undercover. Gary Stevens is disgusting! With this evidence of ‘Shocking’, How are these Jockeys aloud to ride? THEY CHEATED and worse…Abused the animal. Lance Armstrong was stripped of all his FAKE glory. Take away their wins and set an example going forward for these precious animals.

  • priscellia says:

    People use animals in any way they can just to make money .. Animals are not your financial help there’s job for that

  • Virginia Greenwood-Warner says:

    Fully agree with Beverley. These animals are terrified of being shocked so just anything or any mimicked sound will send them charging. These things are also used when the trainers “teach them to charge out of the gates” god I hate all these cruel people and specifically owners, trainer and jockeys.

  • carol says:

    Well done, thought Kentucky Derby was a large battle. You have shown me how small they become when there’s inhumane acts done against those who need a voice.

  • Beverley says:

    I don’t believe it will be of much help to be honest. The jockeys use this cruel method while riding work with the horses. When it comes to the big day, all that is needed is to make the same sound and touch the horse in the same area of his body. The horse will automatically believe he is being shocked yet again. It will only serve as a slight deterrent. Stop the Derby, stop the horse racing.. There’s just way too much cruelty involved in man’s ego & greed!

  • hana M says:

    this is Disgusting” ——It’s Bad enough to put them through races” —-Don’t add an Injury” / Pain” to these beautifull Beings” —Stop the Abuse” Now” …………………….

  • liferays02 says:

    I have no respect for an industry that treats their animals inhumanely. It’s way harsh to use this kind of equipment on horses. I’m sure the ones winning do not mind as long as they win. Follow the $ trail. It’s chock full of mentally sick people who only worship the dollar.

  • Peggy wilkey says:

    The people don’t want horses hurt so if they want a crowd they better stop hurting the horses. People are sick of this cruelty

  • Marcia Tinoco says:

    Isso é podre! Maltratar um ser vivo por benefício próprio.Imaginem maltratar esses proprietários para que tenham sempre êxito.

  • Madeleine Giraud says:

    The Kentucky auction and Derby are a disgrace !!!!

  • S says:

    This should strip search the jockeys just before the race starts.

  • Michelle says:

    This is cruelty…..

  • jody says:

    Gary Stevens, you make me sick!!

  • Yasandi says:

    Is there no way to make this illegal and impose sever punishments for those who continue to use horses for racing, carriages etc.?

  • Joyce says:

    F these people…all animals deserve a good life…I really a shame to be a human!