I’ve got several posts in the pipeline that I’ve been waiting to put up: about my trip to Delaware Park a week ago; about a great article on Saratoga Russell and Ready’s Image sent to me by a Bloomberg reporter last week; about the final Take Ten! standings and where our charitable donation will go.
But it doesn’t quite feel like it’s time to get back to business. Blogs and mainstream media are still working their way through the Derby in all its problematic complexity, and fortunately, Railbird and Equidaily make it easy for you to find the stories that interest you.
On Saturday, June 9th, 2001, I sat in my apartment all day, grading papers and watching one amazing sports event after another. Jennifer Capriati won her second consecutive French Open; Point Given won the Belmont; and Ray Bourque won his first Stanley Cup.
I feel like this past weekend was the antithesis of that great day: Big Brown wins the Derby, the worst possible outcome as far as I was concerned; disgust turns to horror when I find out that Eight Belles has broken down; and twenty-four hours later, my Rangers are eliminated by the Penguins. Can we please go back to Friday and start all over again?
Unfortunately, we can’t. So what now?
Green but Game offers some suggestions for our activism, suggestions I applaud and support…but how do we get there? Pondering what I’d like to change about racing, I tried to think about where I’d start. Whom would I write? Where would I donate? Who might listen?
Maybe the most discouraging part of this dreadful weekend is that there are no answers. Never have I felt so keenly the absence of a national governing body for this sport; there’s no Gary Bettman (OK, so maybe that’s a good thing), no authoritative national headquarters that I can write with my concerns and suggestions. There are only fractured, competitive bodies, guided by self-interest, led by those so far inside the industry that one wonders how frequently they think about—or care about—the folks at the rail and at the picnic tables at the racetracks—and about those watching on TV, seeing again a horse go down and the screens go up.
Who’s going to try to convince breeders to stop deleterious inbreeding? Who’s going to ban the medications upon which it’s currently legal for horses to race? Who’s going to outlaw steroids nationally? Who’s going to do the long-term, independent study of track surfaces? Who’s going to mandate that necropsies be performed on every horse that goes down on a racetrack, during a race or during training?
I’ve spent most of the last two days trying to figure out how I’m going to keep following this sport that I love with a clear conscience. On Sunday I was watching the Rangers game and during a commercial break, without thinking I grabbed the remote…and switched to channel 71, to catch the action at Belmont. Agonized as I was over Eight Belles’s death, I wasn’t quite ready to turn away, and I realized that the way—the only way—to move forward is to do what I can to make this sport safer for all those involved in it.
I just wish that the powers that be didn’t make it quite so difficult…