Skip to main content

Frailty

There was "absolutely nothing you could do,"

That is a quote from the on-call vet at the Derby yesterday, where filly Eight Belles broke down and had to be euthanized.

I was going to link that picture in the article, but that's too much for me to look at.

We have chatted many times about the capriciousness of racing, and how the highs are high and the lows are low. I think this is no more apparent in this quote:

Jones, who sent out Hard Spun to finish second in last year's Derby, said, "We were high-fiving. We were ecstatic. I thought we had déjà vu with last year. As she galloped around the turn, she was following [winner] Big Brown and her ears were up. I knew she'd be back quick to be unsaddled.

"When I heard a horse had broke down, I thought that maybe it was one of the ones that had run poorly. I saw [jockey Gabriel Saez] on [NBC interviewer] Donna Brothers' horse and I said, 'What's up?' He said, 'Mister Larry, they put her down.' She ran the race of her life."


I am a big believer that the best athletes in the world, or animals in the animal kingdom are hard on themselves. Talented running backs, solid as a rock have ligaments tear like a piece of paper, hamstrings are popped like popcorn. Horses, through genetics are capable of being tough in the wild, as the breed is a breed for endurance and toughness. In racing they are bred for one thing and one thing only - speed. When you change a breed you change their features. Horses are simply not capable going high speed without some sort of malady nowadays, and sometimes it is fatal.

I think we could run on poly-jello and still have this happen. Jess Jackson said he is entering Curlin in all of the distance classics, and wants him to succeed and race one more year before breeding. He hopes that more people breed for endurance and toughness. If they do perhaps we will see fewer and fewer breakdowns. I hope he is right, because watching that filly break down yesterday is simply heartbreaking.

In harness racing we are better, but not immune. The breed is being refined. 25 and change quarters can and do happen. 2yo's like Dali last year step foot on the track, are tuned athletes, are stoked at being there, and pace out of their skin in their first starts. We have done a fairly good job breeding endurance and toughness into our breed, and I hope we never get to the point where our horses are frail. I'll take a world record of 150 in our sport, versus a world record of 145, with horses like Eight Belles to show for it anyday.

This was a weird Derby. Big Brown won, but because of his connections there is not much cheering. Larry Jones, who is a consummate old time horseman, loses a filly he treated like family. Horse racing is an all consuming passion for many - handicappers, grooms, trainers, feed men, blacksmiths, everyone. We want to see everything just right. Perfect. It never seems to happen that way, and yesterday is testament to that.

I won't think of this Derby fondly at all. How can anyone who respects a horse do that? This was the scene at Larry Jones barn yesterday. It is what I will think about when I remember this Derby.

At Jones' barn, people came and went, many with tears in their eyes.

"These things are our family," Jones said of the filly. "We've put everything into them that we have and they've given us everything that they have."


It's never going to happen, but since I speak of a magic wand here time and again, I sure wish I could wave it and wish for this to never happen again.

Comments