LOUISVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — A Churchill Downs outrider is facing some criticism for what happened after Rich Strike crossed the finish line at the 148th Kentucky Derby.
Video from moments after the race shows Derby winner Rich Strike biting outrider Greg Blasi and his pony multiple times. Blasi physically responds in an attempt control Rich Strike.
"The horse is not a mean horse. He just didn't understand why they were grabbing him to slow him down. That man saved my horse from injury because had he got up in the air and lost my rider he could have gotten loose, I'm sorry for the injuries he sustained," said Eric Reed, Rich Strike's trainer.
Animal rights organization PETA is one of the most outspoken critics of the situation.
PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo released a statement, in part saying, "Whipping horses in a race is abuse and should be eliminated, but punishing a horse who was in a frenzy as the crowd roared is inexcusably cruel. PETA will be filing a complaint about the outrider Greg Blasi, who appeared to hit Rich Strike. Blasi should have let go of the horse until he calmed down, and the lead pony should have had protective gear."
Blasi has decades of experience as an outrider. According to the American Quarter Horse Association, he's worked at Churchill Downs for more than 20 years. He's described as an Oklahoma horseman with ranch roots and he's one of just a handful of professional outriders at the track.