Sunday, May 18, 2008

Big Brown, will he win the Triple Crown?

Like most people who love horses, I've followed the run for the Triple Crown. Some years, I'm very "into" it and learn all I can about the horses, some years it sneaks up on me and I don't pay much attention until all of a sudden, one horse comes out of the pack. Which is what happened to me this year with Big Brown.

I didn't see the Derby. I would have watched the Preakness with trepidation if I'd known about Big Brown's feet. I was going along in blissful ignorance, enjoying the race until I began hearing comments about his hooves. Do a google search for "big brown feet legs" and a lot will turn up.

Kind of a different subject, but I once had a little Quarter Horse mare who could run. There were some farmer races in a summer follow field about four miles from my home, so I rode my horse over to the races. I'd lined up a jockey to ride her in these races. For once in my life, I wanted to watch the action, instead of being in the thick of it.

I'd ridden this mare in several community relay races, and she was known for her speed.

When the starting gun went off, I got so excited, I was yelling at the top of my lungs for Mary Lou to run. This race track didn't have a fence around it, the spectators were the fence. Of course I was right up front, at a point which was about the middle of the race. Mary Lou was way ahead of the pack, and out of all the people lining the track, she spied me! She came across the track, headed straight for me.

The jockey was riding for all he was worth to pull her straight and take her on down the track. Soon as I saw her head for me, I had to quit yelling her name and hide in the crowd.

At the beginning of the race, I'd told the jockey, get her out front and keep her there, she can do this. The rest of the field was horses from the track, thoroughbreds and quarter horses. In spite of cutting across the field, she kept her lead and won the race by a couple of lengths.

At that time in my life, I was caught up in the romance of racing, didn't even realize there was another side to it all.

In the same race where my mare had won, another mare broke her leg. She stood at the finish line, with her front left dangling below the knee. My elation at winning the race was gone because I can't bear to see an animal suffering like that. I was sick to my stomach. It took 15 minutes to find a gun in the crowd so the horse could be put down.

When the day was over, I went to collect my winnings. The guy who was putting on the races said, "Donna, I can't give you the prize money even though your horse won the race." I said, "Why the hell can't you? She won fair and square, right in front of all these people." He said, "Well, you know most of these horses here came off the track. Most of them are _so_and__so_____'s horses." I said, "So what?" He said, "Well, there was a lot of money riding on this, I have to give one of them the prize. They did all the betting here on their horses."

So even in a little country race, in a summer follow field, the rules of money apply to racing. I later learned, the mare who had the broken leg? She'd broken it once before in her life and it had been patched up. She should never have been racing again. Let alone to race on a summer follow field where the dirt is heavy and soft, full of rocks....

I guess you know, I rode the four miles home that day, sadder and wiser than when I'd started the day...and very happy my mare was alive and well. I didn't enter her in any more races after that, she retired...