Social media had a field day in the moments after super longshot Rich Strike galloped to victory in the Kentucky Derby. But once the outrider and lead pony came to collect Rich Strike and lead him to his jockey’s on-track post-race interview and the winner’s circle, things took an unpredictable and nasty turn.

The big chestnut started to savagely attack both the outrider and his pony. The outrider made several attempts to get the racehorse to stop biting him and his horse, eventually resorting to a physical correction (bop on the nose) that left non-horse savvy viewers outraged, many of whom took to social media to express their horror. Some called for the outrider, a seasoned pro named Greg Blasi, to be fired.

Even PETA weighed in with an official statement. In an outrageous claim, the organization implied the actions were due to Blasi’s personal rage that a horse connected to his brother lost the race! “PETA will be filing a complaint about the outrider Greg Blasi, who appeared to hit Rich Strike,” the statement reads. “Blasi should have let go of the horse until he calmed down, and the lead pony should have had protective gear. Stewards must also question whether Blasi was angry that Derby favorite Epicenter didn’t win, as his brother Scott Blasi works for Epicenter’s trainer…”

But Blasi was overwhelmed with support from within the educated horse community and racing family. One Twitter user tweeted in response to those shouting foul: “Rich Strike was still very much on the muscle and was dead serious about biting the pony. The outrider didn’t hurt him, trust me. He was trying to get a horse now worth millions under control and protect his own pony.”

Another twitter user added, “I’m an animal lover, but Rich Strike was out of control and was biting the escort pony. That’s his job to get the horse to the winner’s circle. If RS had gotten loose, it could’ve been extremely dangerous.”

Another supporter posted on her Facebook page , “Greg is being eaten by Rich Strike…Ignorant people are blaming him and calling for his firing … this horse was savaging not only the outrider, but his horse as well. Greg did EVERYTHING he could to get Rich Strike to stop…he had to resort to physically correcting a horse, which is something ALL horse people might have to do. This is the Kentucky Derby winner, and imagine if he “just let go” and Rich Strike got hurt? … if Rich Strike had gotten loose, people and horses might have died. Greg should be applauded for his work, not scolded. Shame on those who blame him without knowing the facts…”

This week on The Today Show, Eric Reed, Rich Strike’s trainer, also came to the defense of Blasi. “I want to clear that up. The outrider’s job at the end of the race is to help get the leading horse slowed down, and take him around and let him do the interviews. Well, Richie, he was in “killer mode,” he was gonna outrun every horse on the track. He had not had a horse, after the finish line, come over to him. So when he saw that pony coming his way, he thought he had another horse to beat and he was trying to run by it,” Reed told the Today Show. “The man did his job: he reached out and grabbed ahold of the horse and it made the horse mad. He didn’t know that he was trying to help him, he thought he was supposed to outrun that horse, and he bit the guy’s leg terribly. He bit his arm, a couple really bad bites. The horse is not a mean horse, he just was in race mode and he 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.”

You can view the post-race antics here: