Sunday, May 04, 2008

Why we've watched our last Kentucky Derby

I used to love to watch the Kentucky Derby on TV. There is nothing more beautiful than watching those magnificent thoroughbreds run their hearts out. I'll always treasure my memories of Secretariat's great races, his almost supernatural presence on the track. But first Barbaro in 2006, and now Eight Belles -- two great horses have died of injuries at the last three Derbies. And Eight Belles had to be killed right where she lay on the track, before people who bet on her to place or show had even cashed their winning bets.

There are kinds of beauty we have no right to enjoy, because the price is too great. We have watched our last Derby in our household. Modern thoroughbred racing -- with their over-bred, over-raced horses -- is nothing but socially sanctioned animal abuse. Sally Jenkins wrote about the moral crisis in thoroughbred racing in the Washington Post.
There is no turning away from this fact: Eight Belles killed herself finishing second. She ran with the heart of a locomotive, on champagne-glass ankles for the pleasure of the crowd, the sheiks, oilmen, entrepreneurs, old money from the thousand-acre farms, the handicappers, men in bad sport coats with crumpled sheets full of betting hieroglyphics, the julep-swillers and the ladies in hats the size of boats, and the rest of the people who make up thoroughbred racing. There was no mistaking this fact, too, as she made her stretch run, and the apologists will use it to defend the sport in the coming days: She ran to please herself.

But thoroughbred racing is in a moral crisis, and everyone now knows it. Twice since 2006, magnificent animals have suffered catastrophic injuries on live television in Triple Crown races, and there is no explaining that away. Horses are being over-bred and over-raced, until their bodies cannot support their own ambitions, or those of the humans who race them. Barbaro and Eight Belles merely are the most famous horses who have fatally injured themselves. On Friday, a colt named Chelokee, trained by Barbaro's trainer Michael Matz, dislocated an ankle during an undercard for the Kentucky Oaks and was given a 50 percent chance of survival.

According to several estimates, there are 1.5 career-ending breakdowns for every 1,000 racing starts in the United States. That's an average of two per day.
Enough is enough.


George H. said...

I so agree with this.

Anonymous said...

I was never terribly comfortable watching, anyway. I used to like to convince myself that horseracing was about the LOVE of horses; I now realize it is and always has been purely about the love of money and the complete and utter disrespect of these lovely animals. I won't even watch the replays on the news -- I am so ashamed that my species would treat this species so.