03 May 2008

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

I liked the looks of her. She was proud... full of spirit.
It was a match race at Belmont Park, and for those that love horses it was a "must watch".
I was at a party. We were all supposed to choose a horse and throw $10 into a pot. Those that picked the winning horse would win/share the money.

Fillies are normally at a disadvantage against the larger, stronger males, but this filly had proven up to the task against lots of stallions. I was one of a minority of partiers willing to take a chance on her.
Her name was Ruffian. She hit her shoulder pretty heavily leaving the gate and favored it for the first part of the race but nevertheless led. She was still in front by a head when her right leg broke. That's when her spirit became a disadvantage.
She was quickly euthanized.

Today Sara Jean called while I was at work...
"They're gettin' ready to run the Kentucky Derby. Which horse ya pickin'?"
"Is there a filly in the field?"
"Yep... as a matter of fact there are two."
"I'll take the one with the shortest name." (Some horse expert I am, right?)

In a little while my cell phone rang...
"I have good news and bad news. She came in second. But she broke both front legs and they had to put her down."

My job exposes me to too much tragedy and I have to be stoic about it. It's gotten to be more than I can handle at times. Many times the strangest, slightest things will reduce me to tears. Today the death of "Eight Belles" made me a blubbering fool in front of friends.

Two years ago, Barbaro looked like he was gonna beat the odds. News reports got my hopes up for a year or so, but it just wasn't to be.

So it's a sad list...
Ruffian, Barbaro, and now Eight Belles.
It makes me wonder...
Will public opinion of thoroughbred racing force them to do something to reduce the number of these injuries? I know just enough about the sport to be dangerous, but I'm tired of being "punked" when these beautiful equine athletes have to be euthanized.
If the trend continues, I'll have to quit watching horse racing in order to quit looking like an emotional basket-case.


Greybeard said...

Via email today came this note:

Reading your blog this morning brought up similar emotions.
My first job out of high school was hot walking thoroughbreds at Arlington Park Race track in Chicago.
My uncle was involved in running race horses back in the 70's. What beautiful, powerful animals. Over the next 5-10 years I helped with the care of his horses and one had to be put down on the track in Chicago after a race.
Tears always appear in my eyes remembering Ruffian and watching Secretariat run the Belmont.
You're not alone in this world!!
Fly safe and take care.

Thanks GE...
It's comforting to know I'm not the only one trying to hide the tears.

The Joker said...

I watched the Ky Derby with my sister, last Saturday and about an hour before the race started, I told her I'd bet on Big Brown in a heartbeat I just had a gut feeling he was gonna win by a landslide. Then I seen the filly Eight Belles and kept looking at her and didn't say anything for awhile, then finally said to my sister, "that filly's front legs look like they could just snap into." OMG! When that race was over, it scared me to think what I had said earlier, then I learned that the filly had run in the KY Oaks race the day before. I'm thinking: WHAT! Two races two days in a row!!! Who's the idiot that decided to do that?
These horse are only 3 yrs old, for pete-sakes! They're knees don't even fully develope until they are 4 yrs old.
I was so mad and crying at the same time. I wanted to come through that TV and strangle the trainer AND the owner of Eight Belles. All for money, and I'm sure they had a BIG insurance policy on her. Idiots.