Sunday, May 4, 2008

Eight Belles

I love to watch competitive sports. Just something about the nature of the sport, when adversaries are pitted against one another in the old age pursuit of fame and glory, achieved in the ideal manner especially when the victor is considered by all as well deserving… surely it can move one to tears.

Yesterday’s 134th Kentucky Derby I anticipated to be also as exciting and rewarding. I watched Kent Desormeaux for some time along with Cory Nakatani who started in the sport mucking stalls and walking horses. As for the horses, I was especially intrigued by Eight Belles, the only filly in a field of 19 colts. Not since Winning Colors has a filly won the Kentucky Derby although I was rooting for Colonel John, instinctively knew Big Brown would most likely win yet hoped Eight Belles would at least show.

In this age of dog fighting, cockfighting and various forms of animal cruelty in the name of sport, I considered horse racing the truly dignified alternative. Even in the face of the numerous injuries suffered by a number of horses in the beginning of last year’s season at Del Mar, I believed that every consideration was eventually implemented for the sake of preserving the well being of the jockeys as well as the horses.

After witnessing yesterday’s tragedy, I can no longer be so sure. I begin to question the wisdom of allowing a 2 year old, still developing as race horse to compete in such a demanding event especially in a significant field of 19, older, much stronger colts. I became disgusted at the giddy, clueless faces of the crowd who seemed more moved at all the money and prestige they had immersed themselves in while the world hungered, suffered and struggled to survive. I became infuriated at the owner of Big Brown who could not for a minute, stop and reflect at the tragedy that followed at the heels of his horse’s victory, who could not contain his greed long enough to at least inquire as to the welfare of Eight Belles before thrusting his face into our living rooms exclaiming his victory.

One would think that those who enjoy such great blessings in life would not be so indignant as to the attainment of further fortune and glory. One would think that in the face of such a valiant effort to only result in such a sad and final ending, the celebrations could at least have been tempered just long enough to acknowledge the passing of such a great creature. All I saw was the ecstatic reaction of those who cared little about the life of the very creation that allowed for them their indulgent lifestyle. What is a horse when you have plenty of life’s comforts?

I am not contending that the same could have afforded to Eight Belles as was given to Barbaro by his owner’s who unselfishly and lovingly tried to save a horse who obviously would not be able to race again. I will not get into the assumption that such acts are negated by their hopes to take advantage of Barbaro’s lineage, to have him live long enough for breeding purposes. I will not assume that a filly is considered less valuable for breeding, that they are most likely euthanized because they are not worth the cost in trying to save them.

Those are questions better left to those having the moral higher ground to ponder. After all, those in the horse racing world are affluent, civilized, true blue blooded Americans for the most part, surely they would not hold onto the notion that money supersedes all considerations and that in the pursuit of it, even such magnificent creatures are dispensable, as conveniently regarded as collateral damage.

I for one don’t certainly want to believe that. There is too much wealth associated with that industry to think that there are those so greedy as to pursue their fortunes at the expense of the horses they breed, groom, and train. Then again, after what I witnessed yesterday, I can no longer be sure. What I am confident of though is that Eight Belles ran the race of her life… literally and although she came in second, the tears that I shamelessly shed for her made her a winner to me.

Rest in Peace Eight Belles and say hello to Barbaro for us.

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