Sunday, June 07, 2015

Thoughts on the Triiple Crown

I'm not a horse-racing fan. Okay, let's put it bluntly--I'm not particularly fond of horses. When I was about twelve, my parents gave my horseback lessons where we rode in a large group around an arena. I'm not sure that I particularly enjoyed it, but when I was kept from two lessons for some sort of behavioral indiscretion, I never wanted to go back. In my early twenties my step-niece tried to help me ride her Hackamore (?) pony (a medium size pony with a better disposition than most Shetlands). She kept saying, "Don't worry, Aunt Judy. I won't let you fall." I worried. Felt like I was slipping from one side to another.
In my forties, I had a good friend who took me to a horse trainer's stable one day. We walked out into the field amidst all the horses, and Bob said to Alan, the trainer, "She wouldn't do that for anyone else but you." Yep, I'm not comfortable around horses.
I'm also not at all sure about horse racing as a sport. A horse at the Belmont Stakes "fell apart" (whatever that means) during the race and had to be put down on the track. The number of deaths of racing horses each year is appalling. And yet I know for owners, trainers, and jockeys each horse is a great investment so I would think they take as good care as possible. We are told that the days of doping, etc., are over because of good policing. And yet I've read enough Dick Francis' novels to believe that some evil people lurk around racing stables.
Years and years ago I went to a race in Kentucky with my then new husband and was appalled at how much he wanted to bet (we were starving students). Ever after he claimed if I'd let him bet as he wanted we'd have come away much richer. I'm too Scottish for that. But my one impression was that it was all over too quickly you could hardly tell which horse did what. Obviously I write all this as an outsider looking in at the racing culture.
All that said, I watch the Belmont Stakes yesterday with my heart in my mouth. The idea of a triple crown winner after all those years was real excitement. And American Pharoah was such a beautiful, powerful horse--his long stride grace in motion--that you couldn't help cheering. It made me think of the pioneering photographic studies by Eadweard Muybridge of horses in motion. There was that one brief moment when it look like another horse (Frosted?) might surge to the fore, but then it was over and American Pharoah had won! Wow! Relief, excitement, joy--even from an outsider.
I probably won't watch another horse race for a long time, but that one was a high point in my day, even just sitting in front of the TV. I can't imagine the excitement of being in the crowd. And hats off to the jockey who will contribute his winnings to charity. Maybe horse racing is a part of American culture that I need to understand better.

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