It was a great race. Big Brown, if he can keep from getting hurt, is the real deal. He’s a monsterous horse in size, he looks great, and he tore through 1 1/4 miles like it was a walk down the street. He even had enough energy after the race to bite his accompanying horse on the ear a few times. But unfortunately, that great story about the homeless trainer who comes back from nothing to win the biggest race in horse racing is overshadowed because of one unfortunate animal.
Friday I was discussing the Derby with my horse-friend Katie, who was absolutely thrilled with the fact that someone had balls enough to enter another filly into the Derby. Not only was Larry Jones entering her into the Derby, he was going for a historic Oaks/Derby double, and he had a damn good shot at it. That roan beauty was named Eight Belles, and she ran her heart out today. I thought for sure she was going to be gassed at the end, but she held on, she kept fighting, and she finished a strong (and well paying, at $16.80) second place.
Unfortunately, all it takes is one wrong step.
There’s no telling how it happened. She might’ve stopped too short. Sometimes it just happens, but when she went down and when I saw the two equine ambulances there, I knew exactly what was going on.
I’m not a huge fan of racing. I know more about it than the average person, sure. I’ve been to Derby and Oaks and to the track in general dozens of times, and there’s one nasty little bit of business I never want to see ever again, and it’s an unspoken secret amongst rail birds. If there’s one equine ambulance, then there’s a chance the horse will live. If there’s two ambulances? They’re putting the horse down.
It’s gut-wrenching to know that there’s a big, beautiful animal suffering, both front ankles shattered. It’s even more gut-wrenching when you’re one of the few people who realizes what’s going on while NBC remains blissfully clueless. I know it has to be even worse for the jockeys, trainers, and handlers there, who have to temper the celebration of the greatest day in racing with the knowledge that somewhere there’s a trainer and a jock who had to watch a horse they’ve grown to know and love be put to rest, especially when she was as talented as Eight Belles.
Congratulations to Kent Desormeaux, Richard Dutrow, and of course, Big Brown. Big Brown’s going to eat the Preakness alive, and given how strong he ran this race, if his trainer can keep his foot problems from flaring up, he’s got gas enough in the tank to win the Belmont. I’m just hoping we don’t see him get hurt, too.
I always figured it’d take a public tragedy like this to get Churchill to consider going to polytrack. We’ll see how that goes after this meet. If anything would cause them to make the switch from dirt, this is it.