Friday, May 9, 2008

Playin' The Ponies

It's a blustery day here in Manhattan. Overcast and pissing rain. My favorite kind of days. I love rainy days. Maybe many of us that were raised in the Northwest feel this way. Rainy days make me happy. I could live on that Star Wars planet that is stormy every day and be perfectly content.

I've never been a big horse racing/go to the track guy. We have a few buddies that are full on addicts. One that took a security guard job at Emerald Downs, a Seattle area race track, just to be closer to the track. The best part of that story was our buddy found used condoms in the stables. Seriously. Our boy then became the lead "investigator" for the great Emerald Downs Horse Trainer Bestiality Scandal. He was interviewing suspects, collecting evidence, analyzing data, the whole nine. The case has never been solved. The sicko that was diddling horses in Auburn Washington is the Jack the Ripper of the horse world. Saucy bugger. I am not making that story up. Anyhoo, I've been a few times and had a good day. But I do love following the Triple Crown every summer. This started years ago. I would get the weekend edition of USA Today and read about each horse, then my brothers and I would watch the race on Saturday. I like the history (there was a documented horse race in London in 1174 hosted by King Henry II and there were horse races in the Greek Olympics going back as far as 638 BC.), the pageantry and tradition, the human interest stories and the intense two minutes of the race. I love when the guy yells "and down the stretch they come!" when the horse's turn the final corner and come barreling down the home stretch. Okay, I admit it, I also think the little jockeys are funny. Especially when they are interviewed. They all sound like a cross between the Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz and Keri Strug. It's just adorable.

This year we have a truly talented horse, Big Brown, who has a real shot to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. Seattle Slew also won the Triple Crown in 1977. Sadly, the Kentucky Derby had a dark cloud over it because of the tragic death of silver medal horse Eight Belles. The filly finished second and when slowing down suffered two compound fractures in her front legs and was euthanized on the track shortly thereafter. Watching the scene unfold was terrible. Very sad.

(Side Note -- My cousin Aaron is referred to as "A-Bells." Sounds just like Eight Belles. With the confusion of what was going on, I thought I heard the announcer say that A-Bells was just put to sleep on the racetrack. I quickly called Aaron to make sure he wasn't put down by veterinarians in Kentucky. A-Bells is okay. He wasn't in Kentucky.)

Of course the knee-jerk reactions came quickly. Especially from the more and more ridiculous as time goes on jokers at Peta. How in the name of all that's holy can you take Peta seriously? They say the jockey needs to suspended. Uh, what? What sense would that make? The fact of the matter is that this was a freak accident. It's never happened before. Much like the terrible deaths of Hank Gathers or Dale Earnhart. It's the equivalent of Peyton Manning winning the Super Bowl, walking off the field and dying in the tunnel of an aneurysm. The odds of the injury happening again are roughly the same odds I will see the movie "What Happens In Vegas." In other words, slim and none, and slim is heading out of town. It was an anomaly, not an indication that horse racing should be banned.

That being said, I am bothered by something else. When you have the opportunity the name a race horse, it is a gift. The chance to really make a statement. The owners of this gifted horse went with ... Big Brown. Moses smell the roses, that is just awful. Big Brown? "He's a big brown horse, let's just call him Big Brown." That's like a new mother saying, "Well, he's a little pink naked guy, I say we name him Little Pink Naked." Brilliant.

Think of the rich history of race horse names. Names like Whirlaway, War Emblem, Thunder Gulch, Holy Bull, Gallant Fox, Tobasco Cat, Go For Gin and my favorite, Fusaichi Pegasus. The possibilities are endless. If I had a racehorse, I would name him something like; Campbell's Lad, 1.21 Jigowatts, French Lick, El Chupacabra, Garden Gnome, Chester Copperpot, Illahee (my junior high school), Break Like The Wind, Staff of Ra, Duck Soup, Fiji Mermaid, Pilkington's Round Head, Ittadonedeal, Luck Be A Lady, Inferno or Rampant Lion. Something like that, uh, I haven't really thought about it very much.

Man, I need to start saving for a race horse. The Preakness is only a week away.

Eight Belles: R.I.P.

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