Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Week after the Derby

I purposely delayed writing about this year's Kentucky Derby while I waited for the dust to settle. By now, even those who didn't watch the race know that the undefeated favorite Big Brown won the race handily while the second-place finisher, favorite filly Eight Belles suffered an ultimately life-ending injury after the race had finished. The official report is that she broke her two front "ankles" (actually called "fetlocks" or the metacarpophalangeal joint) and had to be euthanised on the track.

The tragedy and triumph of the Derby has once again brought out all those who are against the horse racing industry and those who defend it. PETA has called for the suspension of the jockey, Gabriel Saez, and the forfeiture of the $400,000 purse that the filly won in the race (along with the usual call to end all horse racing). The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority (KHRA) made a public announcement of sympathy for all those involved with Eight Belles and reiterated their dedication to making horse racing as safe as it can be. The trainer, Larry Jones, has publicly defended the jockey and his actions. An online petition has been started to encourage the ringing of eight bells before the start of next year's Derby in memory of the filly. There are even wrist bands now available, the proceeds of the sale of which benefit a horse rescue organization.

There are many questions about the racing industry being raised, all of which have been asked before with no good answers as yet. Questions about the safety of the track surfaces, the breeding practices that have lead to the Thoroughbred of today, the age the horses are run, the training routine, the running of fillies against colts, the relative short time between the 3 Triple Crown races are continually asked. I won't try to address those questions at present, as I don't think I have enough information on any of them to make an educated answer, but suffice it to say that I am a horse-lover and a lover of horse racing and whatever they can do to make the sport safer, I will support.

In the meantime, Big Brown is off to the Preakness next weekend, and none of the Derby racers will be joining him. In fact, few horses at all will be racing against him. Everything seems to indicate it will be a much smaller field than the 20 horses that ran in the Derby. Many seem to agree that he is simply an amazing horse. While Big Brown's ultimate fate as a breeding stallion is certain, he is a promising candidate to win the Triple Crown for the first time since Affirmed in 1978. Hopefully he does, and does so safely.

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