Saturday, May 03, 2008

Triumph and Tragedy

Big Brown wins the 134th Kentucky Derby by 4 3/4 lengths. Eight Belles, just to the right, comes in 2nd place, only to be put down immediately after the race.

The 134th Kentucky Derby produced terribly mixed emotions for horse racing lovers. It was a triumphant occasion for Big Brown, who overcame two historic obstacles to win an excellent race, and a tragic one for the filly Eight Belles, who also ran a great race to finish a strong second, only to break both front ankles at the conclusion of the race. She had to be euthanized immediately.

It's always very upsetting to see a horse go down at the track like that. And Eight Belles was a beautiful horse. Before the race, La Reina and I kept commenting on how lovely she was. Hard to get overly excited about the Derby after such a terrible conclusion.

Despite the tragedy, we were glad to see our Long Island native, Big Brown, do so well. I voted for him in NBC's Pick-the-Winner contest, so I'll be one of thousands vying for a free trip to next year's Derby. He was the first horse since Regret in 1915 to have only run three races prior to the Derby, and the first horse since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929 to win from the 20 post. An impressive race by an even more impressive horse.

As I mentioned in my pre-race analysis, the duel between #20 Big Brown and #19 Gayego right at the start proved to be crucial. Big Brown broke extremely well out of the gate and immediately shut down Gayego, who got squeezed back behind #18 Recapturetheglory and never became a factor. Kent Desormeaux, Big Brown's jockey, then got his horse in an excellent position on the outside of the front pack, just a little back. He cruised for much of the race, then turned it on around the final turn, showing a tremendous burst of speed at the end. In fact, Big Brown, was still raring to go after he crossed the finished line, actually forcing Desormeaux to jump out of the saddle at one point, a fairly amusing (though potentially dangerous) occurrence for a winning jockey.

My gut pick for a long-shot finish in the money, Smooth Air, never showed much and wound up 11th. One of my other long-shot bids, Tale of Ekati did manage to come in 4th. The surprise horse of the day, however, was Denis of Cork who finished 3rd at 27-1 odds. He's named after Father Denis Casey, a priest from County Cork, Ireland, and trained by John Carroll, who grew up in County Meath, Ireland. Never underestimate the Irish in a horse race. Unfortunately, they didn't include this crucial information in the statistics of the Daily Racing Form. How was I to know?!

We'll see if Big Brown can overcome his frequent problems with his hooves to win in two weeks at the Preakness. If he does, I think he'll have a better shot than many at winning the difficult mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes. Imagine a Long Island horse winning the first Triple Crown in 30 years right here on Long Island. I plan on being there.

I'm just sad that Eight Belles won't be there as well.

Here's the race . . .


crystal said...

I just got the audio book version of Seabiscuit. I'm not very far into it, but I remember in the movie that he was injured, but they didn't euthanize him - do horses with broken legs have to be? In the movie, I think they said they don't but that no one wants to take the time needed to have them heal. Sad, anyway, about Eight Belles.

cowboyangel said...

Seabiscuit's a great book. Would be interesting to hear an audio version.

It always depends on what kind of injury the horse has. Often when a horse damages a leg, it winds up putting much more pressure on the opposite leg, which then gets infected. That's what happened to Barbaro. They did everything humanly possible to save him, and it looked like they had, but then the infections started in and they had to put him down.

Eight Belles had no chance at all. She broke BOTH front ankles, meaning she wouldn't be able to stand at all. They couldn't even put splints on her yesterday. And they were extremely painful breaks.

Very sad.

Jeff said...

I clearly remember when Ruffian went down in her match race with Foolish Pleasure. Is this something that happens more often to fillies?

cowboyangel said...


I don't know the answer to that. My guess is that gender isn't an issue in these cases. I'd have to see some stats. But I've never heard or read that fillies are more inclined to get injured.

Age, on the other hand, is definitely an issue. Too many trainers and owners start running their horses too early. I think the industry's gotten a little better about this in the last decade, but it's probably still a problem. Really, the Triple Crown should be for four-year-olds. Start racing at three. Not two.