Some shots from the not at all fun part of Saturday.
Trainer Larry Jones leading EIGHT BELLES into the paddock area.
We were about 8 feet away from her, and my God what a beautiful animal she was. She was also the biggest filly I have ever seen. Normally fillies are visibally smaller than colts, but she was as big as if not bigger than most of the boys. Unlike most women on Craigslist claiming it, she was really and truly a BBW.
Jockey Gabriel Saez leads EIGHT BELLES out to the track
I'm a bit of a lefty, but I want to take a minute to say what a stupid bunch of ignorant glory hunting douchebags the folks over at PETA are for coming out and demanding that Gabriel Saez be suspended for "killing" EIGHT BELLES. I guess I missed the part where he pulled out his machete and slit her throat after crossing the wire. The fact that they would seek the spotlight without as much as taking the time to ask anyone who knows anything at all about horse racing before saying such ignorant shit as she was "doubtlessly injured before the finish" among other complete ignorant things. They have absolutely no idea what they are talking about and are just using a tragic accident to seek the spotlight and glamorize themselves, and as someone who is pretty into horse racing, it pisses me off. So eat a dick, PETA.
I also want to say that it was very classy and thoughtful for NBC track reporter Donna Brothers to pick Saez up on the track and give him a ride back around the track and through the paddock to the jockey's room. Brothers was right there on the scene and is visibly shaken up, as was Saez, but he was still gracious enough to toss one of his pairs of goggles to a fan as they went past us.
As we left the track it felt eerie looking over at the stall in the paddock where she saddled up, which was now completely empty, in more ways than one.
What an empty feeling
I don't want to write a book about all the ethical questions floating around right now, but this was an accident and it happens in horse racing all the time, albeit 99% of the time not when millions of people are watching but rather a few hundred. FYI the statistics available show that there are between 1.5 and 2 fatalities per 1000 starts in thoroughbred horse racing in the United States. I would be interested to see how that compared to boxing, wrestling, or the newly popular mixed martial arts and ultimate fighting.
At the end of the day, no one "killed" EIGHT BELLES, she misstepped and broke down, and as cold as it is to say it, it is a part of racing. You are talking about 1600 pound animals who run 35 miles per hour and whose ankles are the same size as yours and mine. Think about that for a minute and let that sink in.
The problem lies not in what most people are talking about, the problem lies in the breeding of thoroughbreds. Years ago they were bred for strength, stamina and speed, but the last few decades they have been bred purely for speed and speed only, and as a result the entire breed has become even more fragile. Why? Because with syndication in the 70s there is now so many hundreds of millions of dollars in the breeding industry, that they want speed, speed, speed. The breed has been inbred too much to accomplish this, and the result is the we inevitably will see more fatal breakdowns because the breed just keeps getting less strong and more fragile with each passing generation. The introduction of synthetic racing surfaces seems to be cutting way down on fatal breakdowns, and I truly believe that we will see the Kentucky Derby run on a synthetic track in our lifetimes. But the only way to really address the situation is through breeding, and like with so many other things in this world there seems to be so much money at stake that those who control it will likely never change, as they are making too many millions of dollars doing what they are doing and are unlikely to fundamentally change and make less money in order to do the right thing for the breed as a whole.
It's tragic and I know alot of non-horse racing people like to poke fun at it, just like they did in backlash to the Barbaro media circus, but people in racing get very emotionally attached to these animals and it is heartbreaking to see them suffer and even die. Hell we're just racing fans and 3 different dudes in our group had tears in our eyes, myself included, when the word swept through CD on Saturday- I cannot even imagine the emotions felt by those really close to the animal- the people who bred her, who raised her, who broke her, who worked with her every day, who trained her, and who owned her, and that they all went from total & complete euphoria for the animal to utter and complete sadness & loss in the span of about 2 minutes. Imagine your dog dying when you were a kid and then multiply that by a 1000 or so. And no I don't want to see zoomed in still images or shots from the blimp cam and get all Joe Theisman with it; there's no point- it's just another instance of unnecessary injury porn.
And people snark about the owners being millionaires and making money off the horses. Look, most people in the racing game are already millionaires, and each and every one of them would rather that any of their horses would never win a dollar and be healthy than sacrifice their lives to win them a bunch of money.
After the Barbaro thing, as well as some other breakdowns in the last few years, including George Washington in last year's Breeders Cup Classic, I have changed my prerace thought pattern from "man I hope my horse wins" to "I just hope that they all get around safely and get out of the race healthy".
R.I.P. EIGHT BELLES, a beautiful champion filly who lost her life doing what she loved, and doing it well.