Saturday, May 10, 2008

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Triumph and tragedy

Today epitomized the highs and lows of horse racing. The high of course was Big Brown's dramatic victory in the Kentucky Derby despite his inexperience, his quarter-crack prone feet, and his far outside post. I have been watching and rooting for that colt since one of my racing forum buddies, a bloodstock agent, arranged his sale to IEAH after his impressive maiden win at Saratoga last year. Naturally, I was shrieking with delight when Big Brown swept around the turn and easily accelerated away from the field. What a thrill!

And then my excitement vanished when the cameras panned to a shot of the filly, Eight Belles, down on the track. Going into the race, I honestly didn't think she had a chance, but I was pleasantly surprised to see her run a game second to Big Brown nonetheless. I was utterly shocked to see that she had fallen as she galloped out after the race, nearly a quarter-mile beyond the finish line. In my 25 years watching horse racing, I have never seen anything quite like it, and sadly, it doesn't entirely surprise me. I could go on at great length about the evils of breeding for speed and precosity at the expense of soundness because that is exactly what doomed Eight Belles---a hulking 17 hand frame on legs too fragile to support it thanks to the unsoundness issues rampant in her sire line. I can only hope breeders will start to wake up and take notice of the damage they are doing to the breed and to the sport...

Nothing could be done to save Eight Belles today, and the breeding industry isn't going to change overnight, but something can be done right now to help other Thoroughbreds in need. I am working on a portrait model of Eight Belles already, a Classic Kelso model, and I will have her for sale on ebay within the week to benefit a TB rescue or research fund. I haven't decided which one yet, but I'll post details here as soon as the model is finished.