Saturday, May 3, 2008

134 Kentucky Derby 134

Wow-ouch! Thoroughbred racing is like no other sport on earth. It exhilarates and it hurts; it exalts and it humbles. It makes us brave and it makes us cry. Most of all it demands that we cannot escape our humanness. Through it we experience life and death. If one was able to watch the 134th Kentucky Derby and not shed tears for Eight Belles then you are not alive. If one was able to watch the 134th Kentucky Derby and not be absolutely astonished and awed by a colt named Big Brown then you are not alive. Eight Belles broke down after the wire, breaking both front ankles and had to be euthanized on the track. Eight Belles, like every single thoroughbred who breaks down, whether they be a $1500 claimer or a filly running second to a colt in the Kentucky Derby, give their life for what they were born to do, what they love to do; run as fast as they can for as far as they are able. That is what humbles us: brilliance, focus, ability and success. I think we experienced true greatness today both in Big Brown and in Eight Belles.

Life is fragile. We know that for something to live something else must give its' life. That is simply the law of existing. Seldom is it played out on a stage as dramatic as an event with the magnitude of the Kentucky Derby. But today it was. Today, we saw another undefeated Kentucky Derby winner. He adds his name to a short list of, Barbaro, Smarty Jones, Seattle Slew, Majestic Prince, Morvich and ironically, the filly named Regret. He won like few have. He left all but the lone filly far behind, accelerating away from the herd as though he had entered the race at the top of the stretch. After it had ended there was no sign of exertion, no lather, no flared nostrils, just a buck to toss his jockey, Kent Desormeaux, to the ground as if to grab the spotlight for himself. It seems that Big Brown has enough of a class edge over his peers that he has to be considered the best chance since 1978 to go on and win the first triple crown since Affirmed. Perhaps we are witness to the emergence of one of the greatest horses of all time. But nothing comes for free. For everything great there is great sacrifice. Unfortunately, that sacrifice manifest itself in the loss of the exceptional filly, Eight Belles. If Big Brown does go on to make history the loss of Eight Belles will not mar that accomplishment. His accomplishment would assure that she is forever remembered. So let's hope Big Brown goes on to become worthy of her loss. Let's revel in the ultimate emotional and physical exhibition of thoroughbred horse racing. Let's exalt in the victory of Big Brown and mourn with the connections of Eight Belles. I love this sport.

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