08 May 2008

In the Wake of the Race

Since I mentioned that I was putting down a bet on Eight Belles for the Derby in my last post, I have felt all week that I needed to say a little something about her death immediately following that incredible race. She looked outstanding the whole way around the track, with only Big Brown (wow! What a horse!) looking better. Please understand, I know very little about thoroughbreds and horse racing. But you can't live in Kentucky and not be familiar with some of it.

For those saying that horse racing is the equivalent of dogfighting or a form animal abuse, all I can say is that I strenuously disagree. These horses are bred to do what they do, and yes, breeding may very well have something to do with Eight Belles's tragic end, since for years now thoroughbreds have be bred for speed over endurance. But these horses want to run, and most of them love the competition of the race. Certainly the ones entered in that race did - otherwise they wouldn't have even qualified for the race. You could see their love of racing during the Derby - she was as eager to chase Big Brown as all the other horses were to chase her. And these horses live very, very well. Trust me, many of the places they live are better than the house I live in; these horses are anything but neglected.

While it is shocking to watch a horse be euthanized on the track, and while tears sprang to my eyes, I am grateful to those who were there for responding as quickly as they did, as they probably kept Eight Belles from feeling a great deal of the pain of her injuries. I am sorry for the owner, trainer, and jockey, all of whom are being put under what seems to me to be an unfair microscope. I am sorry for horse racing, but I hope the industry can find a way to learn from this tragedy, as they did from Barbaro's injuries. Most of all, I am sorry for Eight Belles, who was a beautiful horse who went down in one stride. I would have enjoyed watching her continue her career.

The money I won on her last race will be donated to a group here in KY that takes care of retired racehorses... it is not much (just a $2 across the board bet) but it's the least I can do to honor her life and the joy she was to watch racing against the boys.

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