Outrider in Horse Racing

If you watch enough horse racing then you will become familiar with the outrider. An outrider is an individual that is tasked with helping to keep order on the racetrack. During the races these men and women ride on horses to patrol the track for any horses which may get loose and need to be caught.

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The 2022 Kentucky Derby has placed attention on the outrider in horse racing. Following a longshot win at 80-1, Rich Strike was very difficult while being led back to the paddock by Churchill Downs outrider Greg Blasi. Blasi was forced to firmly correct the horse in front of the NBC television cameras. This prompted an outcry from horse racing critics.

What Happened With Rich Strike and the Outrider Greg Blasi?

It is customary in horse racing for the winning horse to be led back to the Winner’s Circle by an outrider. The trip is not a fast one. The horse and jockey are usually taken by the grandstand so that those in attendance can see the horse up close. Horses react differently to this experience. Some of them behave well, and others are fractious.

Rich Strike could definitely be placed in the last category. The horse gave the outrider and his pony loads of trouble while being led. Rich Strike even went so far as to savage the pony and Blasi by biting both repeatedly. These actions led to what some contend were extreme measures on the part of Greg Blasi.

While the national audience watched on NBC, Greg Blasi jerked the reins of Rich Strike with force. When this did not work, Blasi punched the horse in the head with a closed fist. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, many were calling for the removal of Greg Blasi from his position at Churchill Downs. Some even renewed their calls for horse racing to be banned altogether.

As with many events, the television coverage of the 2022 Kentucky Derby does not tell the entire story.

Horse Racing Outriders Have a Dangerous Job

Photos emerged after the incident which showed bite marks on both Greg Blasi and his pony. These bite marks were severe, leaving visible gashes in the side of the pony and in Blasi’s legs. It soon became clear that Blasi may have had no other alternative than to correct the horse. Failing to do so could have meant more severe injuries.

The outrider in horse racing faces this type of issue each day on the race track. Most of these incidents go unseen by the public. The case with Rich Strike became an issue because it was broadcast to an audience of millions.

Let’s be clear. We do not condone the abusive treatment of race horses in any sense. We are simply saying that all the facts need to be made available before people rush to judgment. Horse racing outriders have a dangerous job to deal with on a daily basis. Many of them have been hurt while trying to protect horses from harm.

Outriders Protect Horses

Trainer Eric Reed was quick to praise the efforts of Greg Blasi after the outrider was forced to correct Rich Strike in the Kentucky Derby. Reed went so far as to say that Blasi kept his horse safe from harm by giving correction.

If a horse is unruly, the outrider is able to offer some extra control that may be able to prevent the horse from getting loose on the track. It may also help to prevent a horse from throwing a jockey. Horses that are allowed to run loose on the track can be a risk to their own safety and the safety of others.

Outriders in Horse Racing Maintain Order

The men and women that serve as outriders on the track are also required to maintain order. They are the first line of defense if a jockey feels like they have been fouled by another rider. The jockey who wishes to claim foul will immediately notify the outrider. The outrider then uses a walkie talkie or two-way radio to notify the racing officials that a claim has been made.

The outrider does not have a hand in making any decisions about the foul. They may be asked questions by the stewards about the incident, but the stewards are those which will make the final decision.

In the event that an unruly fan or someone else were to try and get on the track during an event, the outrider might also be called upon to handle that matter until security could arrive. Finally, the outrider also has a role to play when a horse is felled during a race. They may remain with the injured horse until the track vet arrives, and they may even prevent the horse from causing itself further injury.

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