Sunday, May 4, 2008

Tragedy Darkens Kentucky Derby Day

Although I am not the official sports reporter on TFN, and know next to nothing about sports, I felt compelled to comment on yesterday's 134th Kentucky Derby. Known as "the most exciting 2 minutes in sports" and the oldest continuous sport in the US, this event was telecast on NBC yesterday afternoon. It is fitting that the Peacock network broadcasts this annual special, as the spectacle of ladies wearing big silly hats and the vibrant racing silks on the jockeys, make this the most colorful of all sports.

I watch the Kentucky Derby every year, because I love, and have always loved horses. And these are the fastest, and most beautiful horses in all the world. They are superb athletes and super models rolled into one. I also like the Derby because it's over quickly and it's very easy to figure out the rules. The horses run. One of them wins. If you bet and your horse comes in first, second or third (called win, place or show for people even more challenged by sports than me), you get money. Beyond that are piles of rules and regulations and strategy and stats, but you don't have to know any of them to enjoy the race.

This year's predicted winner (Big Brown) crossed the finish line in first place so easily I don't think he even broke out a sweat. A gorgeous animal, a rocket ship with four feet, he looked like he was out for a little spring jog. But his glorious victory was followed by an event so terrible and sad, I wonder if I'll ever have the desire to watch a horse race again. Eight Belles, the lone filly in the bunch, ran the race of her short life and came in second to Big Brown. She was a huge tall horse and you can see her trying to catch Big Brown in the picture above. Just seconds after the race ended, she collapsed. The strain of the run had caused her to fracture both front ankles, and she had to be euthanized on the spot. A horse that can't stand, will not survive, as anyone who followed the story of another famous Derby winner (Barbaro) now knows.

There is plenty of talk in the racing world that horses today are being bred for speed, not endurance. And it is cruel to race them so young before their bones have had a chance to fully develop. Animal activists want to outlaw the sport entirely. These issues will undoubtedly be brought to the forefront now. Millions of people had the chance to watch a beautiful black horse run for the roses, only to be destroyed moments later. This is the only sport in the world where the athlete is terminated after an injury. It sure took the joy out of the race for me.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Totally agree with this sober post, Jane. One can only hope that the revelers in the stands paused at least a little while from sipping their juleps to ponder the sacrifice of such an exceptional creature to their sport. It's difficult to put this into proper perspective, but it's good to have the public debate about this. You should hear people up here in the Maritimes still defend the Newfoundland seal some point barbaric behavior has to end. It simply must.