Apr 29, 2009

Kentucky Derby Fever

Or rather the lack of it, I suppose. Don't get me wrong -- on one hand I am really excited about the Kentucky Derby. I woke up this morning trying to make my TV work without access to cable or satellite, which I'm pretty sure is nigh to impossible anymore. I am seriously contemplating calling Time Warner out Friday afternoon to install cable just for horseraces. Which is crazytalk, right? Amiright? Okay probably won't happen, but still...

But on the other hand I feel very conflicted about Saturday's upcoming race. It occurred to me in a dream last night (I have the weirdest, yet most mundane dreams) that this Saturday will be the anniversary of Eight Belles' death during last year's Kentucky Derby. I admit it made me feel a little creepy for wanting to watch the race again.

It's not like I cried or anything after the tragic 2008 race - I wasn't personally connected to the filly - but I remember feeling very badly for having watched the race and her subsequent breakdown. It was a vaguely guilty sensation. Like I had a direct contribution to her demise, and I suppose there is some truth in that. Beyond that however, what actually made me feel worst of all, was the shame of knowing secretly it hadn't lessened my passion for horseracing. For, as much as I rail against some of the depraved aspects of the sport, it's not as if I have ever stopped watching it.

Here and there I rant about this or that, but in the end I still turn on the TV or make a trek out to the racetrack. As a spectator and sometimes bettor, I know that I have a share of complicity in the breakdown of a lot of these young animals. But while the industry may be rotten, I have faith there are plenty of individuals participating in it who are not. Spectators of the sport who are also thoughtful and educated about its failures will go a long way towards changing the industry. At least that's my naive hope. I suppose that shunning horseracing could exact a similar sort of drastic measure, but I don't think I am capable of doing that. Or maybe I just don't want to. Look, I don't enjoy watching a horse break down in the middle of a race, but I know it can happen. Moreover, I know my pleasure horse can take a wrong step while romping in the pasture and need to be euthanized. Horses are fragile creatures. Maybe the only thing we can do is to stop referring to the majority of racing accidents as 'freak' accidents. Let's talk about the deaths and the injuries, and let's keep talking. Constantly. Changes need to occur from deep within the industry (starting with the breeding shed). Those won't happen without having people who love the sport also criticize it.

I don't know. As you can see I am deeply conflicted on this issue. Some days I think I am just trying to justify my cheap thrills, but on days when I am feeling more academic (like today), I sit and expound on how my role as critic and commentator will revolutionize the industry. In the end I know that I will be watching the Derby this year and rooting for someone to PLEASE win the Triple Crown finally in my lifetime. And dream of the day in which I will make an obscene amount of money (winning it in the lottery is okay, too) and make my foray into the racing industry as an insider, where I will challenge every hallowed notion of the modern racing establishment. And win!! //end 8 y.o. bunnyrider fantasy

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