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Aqueduct November 2008: Highs and Lows

December 1, 2008

Smile your on remote camera, originally uploaded by budmeister 26.2.

Pictured: Photo from Budmeister’s Flickr photostream of me and Jessie modeling for the remote camera. Note the focused expression on my face. It’s a tough job standing on a track pressing a button, you know.

Old Fashioned and Larry Jones

Happy trainer, happy horse. The convincing winner of the Remsen is on the Derby Trail. Exciting news for the connections of Old Fashioned, a colt by Unbridled’s Song. Trained by Larry Jones and owned by Fox Hill Farm. What a thrill this must be for this horse and his fans. Brings me back to my childhood and the Derby Fever I felt for my favorite racehorse, Sunday Silence. I remember carefully cutting photos of Sunday Silence out of our local newspaper and taping them on my bedroom walls. He was magical in my young mind.

Springside injured after winning the Demoiselle

But the news was overshadowed by injuries in the other two marquee races at Aqueduct. Springside, winner of the Grade 2 Demoiselle, took a bad step after the wire and fractured her pastern. She was vanned off, stabilized, and is at New Bolton receiving the best of care. I join the rest of racing fans in hoping for a speedy and safe recovery.


Later that afternoon, Wanderin Boy broke down on the turn in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile. My little group of colleagues stood on the photographers’ platform in the inner rail watching the race unfold on the monitor. When the horses hit the turn and we saw what happened, it was painful to be trapped there, shooting a hollow victory. I felt a glimmer of hope when I saw the horse ambulance load him. He was vanned off for treatment but his injuries were inoperable and he was euthanized. I extend my sincere condolences to the connections of this game and resilient horse- it must be devastating to lose a horse like him. Steve Haskin of the Blood-Horse wrote an insightful, strangely prophetic piece about Wanderin Boy’s career and health issues in October and had to end the chapter with a thought-provoking memorial yesterday.

As a horse owner who recently lost a very special horse, I think that my current mental condition makes me a little more vulnerable to reacting emotionally to the breakdown of a horse like Wanderin Boy. These stories also bring me back to my childhood. I was in grade school when Go For Wand suffered a catastrophic breakdown in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, but it had a profound impact on me. I felt like I could not be a horse lover and also be a racing fan. I lost enthusiasm for the sport; while I was still a casual fan, it was several years before I put my heart into racing again.

As a horse lover and a fan of a variety of equine disciplines, there is a conflict within me whenever I hear news of a breakdown. Can changes in breeding, racing surfaces, and training ever truly prevent deaths caused by racing? How do racing-related deaths measure up to fatal injuries caused by other equine sports? Is racing humane? Are my other favorite equine sports humane?

I read everything I can about equine health and science in order to educate myself about our sports. I educate through my photos and share everything I can about racing with people who are not familiar with the sport. When I see a good trainer who cares for his horses and who properly conditions them, I do see happy horses. I see horses who are exercised daily, fed the best feeds, and are maintained like the athletes that they are. I am a fan of these trainers and these trainers are the ones who keep me coming to the track, camera in hand, to capture the next Sunday Silence.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. dangerouspenguin permalink
    December 1, 2008 3:05 am

    Nicely put. I have never had much interest in racing, assuming that it was much more about the money than the horses. But when I was trying to track down Tonka’s former owners I had people calling me from coast to coast to help in my search. That combined with your blog and pictures has made me rethink my stance.

  2. December 1, 2008 5:09 pm

    Wanderin Boy was one of the ones I’ve followed. It’s just hard to take.

    Thank heavens ol’ Evening Attire made it out alive. And so did Rochester, now steeplechasing at … 11?


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