Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sad finish to Derby

Big Brown (above left) took first with an impressive finish - big, beautiful horse with a big, beautiful stride. He started from the 20th post, so he had some serious ground to cover, but he just made it look so easy - like he was hardly even moving 'til the last stretch when he kicked into high gear. And this was just the 4th race of his career. Pretty darn impressive 3 year old.

His 5th race will be the Preakness in two weeks, with his owner and trainer hoping he will become the only 3-year-old with a shot at the title of Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978.

P.S.: did I mention that my big ole' goofball of a gelding has Affirmed bloodlines? I think someone forgot to tell him that - he doesn't go anywhere in a hurry ;)

Second place went to the only filly to have run in the Derby (aka "the Boys Club") since 1999 - Eight Belles (above right). Nineteen colts and one coal-gray filly. And boy-oh-boy did she hold her own - the only horse in the field to come close to Big Brown. She blew passed the finish line after Big Brown, but as she galloped around that first turn following the finish, she collapsed. The television crews hardly even caught it - they were all focused on Big Brown, who actually shied from something, causing his jockey to abruptly dismount (read: he lost his balance, but still landed on his feet). Turns out Brown was most likely spooking from Belles as she went down and her jockey came off.

The reason for her fall? Broken ankles in both front legs - with a compound fracture in the left, exposing the leg to contamination and potential infection. You knew it was bad when she didn't get right up, but it took a minute to get the vet report. She was immediately euthanized once diagnosed - with the breaks being in both legs, there was no way to even splint her and get her into the vet ambulance. And she must have been in so much pain. That's not fair to put a horse through - euthanizing is a difficult choice, but I think it was the right one. She couldn't get up - they couldn't move her - how would she have healed? And would it have been worth it?

What happened for both legs to break? Three and four are like the teenage years in horse world. Should these horses be pushed so hard at this age? Regardless - the point is that it is an awful tragedy - from soaring into second place in the Derby to grounded and broken in seconds - and the single filly amongst the boys.

A bittersweet Derby, today.

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