How Many Legs Does it Take to Run the Kentucky Derby?
If last Saturday’s running is any guide, it only takes (19 x 4) - 2. That’s 74. Usually it’s a multiple of four. But not this year. Not after two of the field’s nineteen horses failed to cross the finish line with all four legs intact.
Monday, word came that Archarcharch, the Kentucky Derby colt with the kooky name, would be retiring after his race-day injury. It was too much. A fracture sustained in an attempt to best his eighteen rivals had effectively ended his racing career. Sayonara, Triple-A!
Here’s what the Associated Press had to say:
Archarcharch owner Bob Yagos knew something wasn't quite right during Saturday's Kentucky Derby.
Yagos saw his Arkansas Derby winner stumble out of the gate, and he saw the saddle slip forward under jockey Jon Court during the race. More than anything, Yagos could tell something was different about the colt's stride on his way to a 15th-place finish.
It wasn't until five minutes after the race that Yagos learned his horse had been taken from the track in an ambulance.
"That was like somebody had just stabbed you in the heart," Yagos said.
Archarcharch was retired from racing on Sunday after surgery on a fractured left front leg turned up additional cartilage damage. The work was done by noted surgeon Larry Bramlage.
"He said there was just too much cartilage damage," Yagos said. "He ran on it too far, and it would mean he would have a stiff ankle. He could run again but not at the level he's been running, and that's not what we want for him."
Yagos said Bramlage was certain the injury occurred when the colt stumbled leaving the gate. Despite the injury, Archarcharch and Court managed to finish ahead of four other horses before the colt pulled up lame after the finish.
Archarcharch had pins inserted to repair the fracture following the race, and trainer Jinks Fires said then the colt's racing future was uncertain. That was before the bad news from Bramlage.
The rest is now history. No more racing for Archarcharch.
The same will probably be said of Comma to the Top, who also suffered a fracture on Derby Day. According to the Daily Racing Forum:
Comma to the Top, who chased the pace before finishing last in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, suffered an injured ankle, his trainer Peter Miller said.
"It appears my horse chipped his left ankle," Miller told Churchill Downs officials. "We could see it when we brought him back. I believe we’ll have Dr. [Wayne] McIlwrath from Colorado State University take it out in the next little while."
Miller said that Comma to the Top would be out of training for at least 60 days following that surgery.
In Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, Comma to the Top, under Pat Valenzuela stalked the pace until for a mile before fading.
"This isn’t the end of the world, and hopefully it won’t be too bad," Miller said. "My horse tried; he always tries and for the first mile of the race he was right there. In the end it looks like we do have a real good miler or mile and a sixteenth horse. We got to run in the Kentucky Derby. How special is that?"
Indeed, how special? A fracture like that means surgery, rehab and often a lifetime of arthritis, right? Yeah, that’s really "special." All because the horse is "a champion" that loves to do what he does. Or so goes the racing industry’s PR party line.
Meanwhile, the politically incorrect truth goes like this:
The thoroughbred racehorse is probably the stupidest creature on Earth. He or she is the only animal I know of that is willing to run an entire three miles on broken bones — doing what s/he was pre-programmed to do by a bunch of fat cats who can then talk blithely of courage, "special"-ness, and stabs through the heart when they break down.
Not that it’s the horse’s fault. S/he merely holds up a domesticated mirror to our brutal humanity when people like Yagos and Miller talk in post-injury gobbledygook. But the reality should not escape us: Here’s one more example of how we tether our beasts and how the sport that binds us with its amazing display of equine athleticism may not be worth saving.
Good thing my Triple Crown boycott is still in effect (reference the Eight Belles post in which I promised to eschew big-name races until significant welfare reform made inroads into the sport). Otherwise, I might’ve been tempted to talk up racing’s recent reforms in advance of this year’s big three.
Instead, this year’s Kentucky Derby again served to remind me just how much I need to keep clear of the races, much though I’ve historically adored them. Because if any given Saturday in late Spring and early Summer can kill my appetite for horse sport - so shockingly often on the basis of broken bone rates alone - I’m forced to think there’s something undeniably, perhaps irretrievably, broken about The Sport of Kings, too.
Dr. Patty Khuly