Sunday, May 4, 2008

My heavy heart and condolences for "Eight Belles".

I was punchy yesterday. I'm punchy most days. But I couldn't shake that hovering cloud of tragedy that hung over the usually celebratory day at Churchill Downs. As with every year, I watch the ESPN pre-show, and then the NBC covered back-story lineup. I cried at the over-dramatized stories of children's illnesses, fights against addiction...etc (no surprise). What I wasn't prepared for, was seeing a horse lose her life.


"Eight Belles" was the lone filly in the 20-horse race. It was the 134th Kentucky Derby, and last time a filly won was twenty years ago. I remember hearing her trainer (Larry Jones) riding her saying "I know half of 'em will be betting on her, against their husband's judgement". He was talking about the women in the stands.

She ran the race without problem, she placed second and galloped with the rest of the horses, until she collapsed onto the track. Compound fractures in both front-ankles. Without a leg to stand on, she had to be euthanized. My heart sank.

Later, Larry Jones was quoted saying:

"...It wasn't a big bumping match for her. She never got touched,...She passed all those questions ... with flying colors. The race was over, all we had to do was pull up, come back and be happy. It just didn't happen."

There are all kinds of reactions. People dismissing the horses death as a "part of the game" and other's criticizing the owners. It's America, say what you will. It is sad to me. I have nothing but compassion for all those involved in her career. It is a loss. I can't imagine the vulnerability and sheer glee they must have felt watching the filly beat 18 other horses to place second, only to be stunned by her sudden injury and loss. The awkward guilt and lack of closure surrounding the team collecting the winnings without a horse to brush or nuzzle with pride would be too much for me.

Not only was it a loss for her team, but something was diminished for the "Big Brown" team. Their horse was the first to come from the 20 spot and win. It is a shame for a once-in-a-lifetime win to be overshadowed by death. We will see him in the Preakness though, where he can continue to prove his abilities in a less complicated dynamic of triumph and tragedy.

R.I.P "Eight Belles"
I really need get a grip on my too-easily inflated heart...I will provoke giggles or guffaws in the coming hours...You'll see.

1 comment:

Penny said...

I have never been touched by a horse anymore than I have Eight Bekkes. She was so beautiful when she was at our hometown track, Oaklawn Park, Hot Springs, AR. My thoughts and prayers are with the Jones' family for I know she was a very BIG part of their family. That kind of loss is heartbreaking. I just wish there was something I could do. Also, I would love to know where, if any, t-shirts, pictures,etc. of her will be available. Anyone who knows, please let me know. We'll miss you, Eight Belles, but never will you be forgotten.

Penny Willett
920 West 28th Avenue
Pine Bluff, AR 71603