But the betting was heavy on the bay and the mare
As they were approaching, about half way around
The gray mare she stumbled and fell to the ground
And away out yonder, ahead of them all
Came a-prancing and a-dancing, my noble Stewball
~lyrics to Stewball
In the 70's, my wife and I accompanied my brother to the race track. He had a great love for 'playing the ponies'. It was a love I didn't particularly share, but to enjoy some quality time with my brother in an activity he dearly loved, we went along. It was a beautiful afternoon.
In the seventh race at Hollywood Park that day, I placed a $2.00-to-win bet on a 12-1 beauty named Baghdad lady. And as they rounded the last turn into the home stretch, there she was, comfortably out front leading the pack. The excitement of the announcer's voice grew as the horses approached the finish line, but then a strange thing happened. "Baghdad Lady"--leader of the field--never got another call. Nary a mention. How could that be for one who was so in command of that race?
The reason soon became obvious to all of us. As the horses crossed the finish line, as we glanced down to the home stretch in front of our grandstand, wondering what had become of our bet, we saw her. There, with leg in pieces and dangling was the most horrific sight. Baghdad Lady had suffered a thoroughbred's worst fear. She had "broken down" as they say.
That was the last time my wife and I attended the horse races. And that was the day beautiful Baghdad Lady, a strong and vibrant creature, bred for speed atop the spindliest of legs, died. We learned this in a brief mention in the following day's Sports Page.
Magnificent creatures behind white fences stretching for miles around green pastures. It's a beautiful image for what is just another industry. My apologies if I offend anyone who is a fan of this "sport" but my sensibilities for these magnificent beasts bred to serve our amusements, is too weak to withstand what the "Sport of Kings" demands.
And so yesterday's Preakness made a fine stallion, Kentucky Derby winner and favorite to win again, my latest Baghdad Lady. Oh, Barbaro's not dead yet, but his outlook is very grim. We didn't watch the race, but I did read what happened in its aftermath. And I couldn't help but feel outrage at the reactions of the stunned crowd or the industry they support.
As an AP story said, "there wasn't much enthusiasm for the finish, especially with many of the fans in tears." Such is the nature of this sport of these 'kings'. I can't help but wonder if the outcome of yesterday's race made any fans into anti-racing advocates like my wife and I?