Black Testifies Against Nakatani During Inquiry Over Tillie’s Joy


Corey Black said Friday that he called fellow jockey Corey Nakatani “an inhumane SOB” after a race that led to the death of Tillie’s Joy at Santa Anita three weeks ago.

Testifying before three Santa Anita stewards in a hearing to determine whether Nakatani should be penalized for striking Tillie’s Joy with the whip after they had crossed the finish line, Black said he was upset that the horse was injured.

The 2-year-old maiden colt, running his third race, broke down en route to the unsaddling area and was destroyed.


Nakatani, denying wrongdoing, has said that he didn’t hit Tillie’s Joy out of anger and that he didn’t strike the horse on the head or in the face. The jockey, whose horses earned $14.9 million last year, ranking him second nationally, is expected to testify today.

Tillie’s Joy, running for a $32,000 claiming price on Dec. 29, finished sixth as the 19-10 favorite. Black’s mount, Kindred Spirit, finished fifth and was near Tillie’s Joy as the horses galloped past the finish line.

Black said Friday that Kindred Spirit was spooked by the sounds of Nakatani’s whipping.

“I almost fell off,” Black testified. “I don’t remember reporting anything, but I remember being upset when I saw [Tillie’s Joy] was injured. When we got back [to the jockeys’ room], there was an exchange of words, not pleasantries. He didn’t say much to me. It was a one-sided conversation. I called him ‘an inhumane SOB.’ I was angry at the time. The horse was injured, and I was obviously upset. I spoke my piece. Our lockers are fairly close together in the room, but I kept my distance the rest of the day.”

In a telephone interview Friday, Robert Jack, medical director for the California Horse Racing Board, said that a preliminary necropsy showed that Tillie’s Joy suffered no eye injuries and had no lesions in the head and neck areas.

“The horse suffered multiple fractures of the left front cannon bone [above the ankle],” Jack said. “We have not yet determined whether there was a pre-existing condition that might have been related to the injuries.”

Darrell Vienna, one of Nakatani’s attorneys, has suggested that Tillie’s Joy was unsound.

Eva Wheeler, one of the Santa Anita “pony girls” who escort race horses before and after their runs, testified Friday that jockeys commonly whip horses after races.


“It gets me very upset,” Wheeler said. “I have respect for horses. Maybe I’m over-sensitive. I’ve meant to report it, but I never did. When you work close with people, it’s hard to turn them in. I’m glad this is coming to a head. What I saw was wrong. It’s wrong every day. It’s not ever justified.”

Wheeler, an escort rider since 1970, testified that she saw Nakatani hit Tillie’s Joy three times, “alongside the neck and face,” but later, under questioning from Vienna, said that it was possible the horse had not been struck in the head.

Wheeler said that she couldn’t tell at the time which horse was being whipped, and at one point, when Vienna questioned her eyesight, said that she uses bifocals for reading.

Wheeler said that when she asked another pony girl what jockey was whipping his horse, the answer was, “Who else? Nakatani.”

When steward Pete Pedersen asked what that meant, Wheeler said, “Corey does it frequently.”

Vienna has said that Nakatani’s seven whip violations since 1988 are not an unusual total. He also said that he might try to impeach Wheeler on grounds of bias.


“She is in a significant emotional state,” Vienna said. “She has a penchant or a bent to perceive what she sees as a problem.”

Vienna referred the stewards to another hearing regarding a whipping incident that involved Martin Pedroza at Del Mar in 1992.

“What [Wheeler] has said today is verbatim what she testified in the previous case,” Vienna said.

Black, who said that he didn’t see Nakatani use the whip on Tillie’s Joy, said that he has done what Nakatani did after a race.

“If a horse lugs out badly, and I’ve tried to steer him straight, then [using the whip] is my next recourse,” Black said. “I’ve also hit a horse out of frustration and been fined for it. I think riders should be allowed some kind of latitude, but I’ve gone over the line and I’ve paid the price. If you’re hitting a horse, and you’re not trying to school him or keep yourself out of danger, then it’s inappropriate.”

Mike Mitchell, who trained Tillie’s Joy, doesn’t blame Nakatani for the colt’s death, but he has said that the jockey whipped the colt excessively and should be fined. Vienna has said that a fine, comparable to what jockeys have frequently received for whip violations, would be acceptable. A suspension from the stewards might result in an appeal to the racing board and could eventually wind up in the courts.


Like Black, Wheeler took Tillie’s Joy’s breakdown hard. She galloped off the track by herself, leaving the other pony riders, and then complained to paddock judge Christine Cannataro.

“About 97% of the time, a horse trying to get in or get out is trying to tell you that there’s something wrong with it,” Wheeler said. “But you see horses getting hit after they’ve been beaten by a nose, or whatever. If this horse hadn’t broken down, nothing would have been done about it.”


Horse Racing Notes

Steward Pete Pedersen confirmed that state investigators checked trainer Bobby Frankel’s barn at Hollywood Park this week after one of his horses had a possible drug positive after a race at Santa Anita. Pedersen did not identify the horse. Frankel declined comment. . . . Laffit Pincay, finishing second aboard No Cold War in Friday’s first race, became the first jockey to go over the $190-million mark in career purses. . . .

Chris McCarron will ride the favorites in two important weekend races. He has the assignment on Cobra King in today’s $75,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, and will be back at Santa Anita on Sunday to ride Northern Spur, who drew the outside post in a 10-horse field in the $150,000 San Marcos Handicap. . . . Cara Rafaela, the first filly to run in the El Camino Real Derby, is the 4-5 favorite in the $200,000 race today at Bay Meadows. . . . Lindsay C. Howard Jr., whose grandfather raced Seabiscuit, Noor and Kayak, died Monday after suffering a stroke. Howard, who was 68, was a successful quarter horse trainer before switching to thoroughbreds and had a three-horse stable at the time of his death.

A post-race exam showed that Odin’s Primo bled in Thursday’s San Miguel Stakes. The 3-year-old gelding had won both of his starts before finishing fifth. . . . Phone Chatter, champion 2-year-old filly in 1993, has been retired and will be bred to Gone West.