Big Brown Not So Big
I'm not a horse racing fan by any means, but it's hard not to get excited when something historic is on the verge of happening. After Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness by convincing margins and with a supposedly weak field, he seemed a lock to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.
The whole hype of the race got to me, like it did in 2004 with Smarty Jones. Had Big Brown not won the Preakness (or the Kentucky Derby for that matter), I surely would not have tuned into today's ill fated Belmont Stakes.
Early on in the race Big Brown seemed to be boxed in, but jockey Kent Desormeaux was able to maneuver Brown out of a cluster fuck and gave him plenty of room to run. For most of the rest of the race, Brown held steady at third place. As the final stretch hit and Desormeaux attempted to get Brown to make his breakaway run, the horse's figurative gas tank was empty and he faded quickly, ultimately finishing in last place.
It was a disappointing race to say the least, though we must be grateful tragedy didn't strike any of these horses as it did earlier this year with Eight Belles or Barbaro at the Preakness in 2006. My entire motivation, and certainly the motivation of many others, was to see a Triple Crown Winner. I kept waiting for Big Brown to make his move, but the only move he really made was to the back of the pack.
The Belmont Stakes seems to be the stumbling block for many horses. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness are 1.25 and 1.1875 miles respectively while the Belmont is 1.5 miles. That extra quarter mile or so may not seem so menacing, but when you consider doing it at a dead sprint, it gets more challenging.
I can't but help wonder if this failure is because of the breeding of the horses. Already it seems that horses are breed for speed and not durability (as shown by the numerous recent horse racing injuries, some fatal), certainly they could also be breed for speed over endurance. After all, the most name recognizable of the major horse races is the Kentucky Derby (I don't think it's unfair to say that most people wouldn't be able to name the other two races in the Triple Crown or any other smaller race) and a horse that wins that will make its owners millions of dollars with that one single victory. The same can't be said for the other major races.
And that's my horse racing post for the year. As with many others, this is a sport that will fade from my mind until next year, when some other young stud raises the nation's collective conscious and again challenges history. Or so we can only hope.
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