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Friday, April 21, 2006

Opinion: Are the horses forgotten?

This corner will preface this column by saying this - racehorse jockeys are among the most dedicated, toughest and bravest athletes in sports and they are easily admired.
When the world's top jockey, John Velazquez, fractured his shoulder blade after his horse Up an Octave fractured his leg following a win yesterday's Forerunner Stakes at Keeneland, it was one of the biggest stories in sports print and television media of the day (okay, maybe not in Toronto where Pat Quinn was fired as the Leafs head coach).
Yes, Velazquez is a star of the sport, and yes, he may miss riding in the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May, but take a look at the headlines of the news stories found on the web yesterday and today:

"Jockey Injured After Horse Rolls Over Him"
"Jockey Hurt as Horse Falls on Him"
"Horse throws top Jockey"

In the Louisville Courier-Journal, perhaps the best source of racing news in the United States, you had to read down to the ninth paragraph in a story to find out that Up an Octave was euthanized.
To most spectators, the incident was horrible to watch. Up an Octave had just used every inch of his power to win the Forerunner but past the finish line, his leg gave way. The horse tried to get up and continue to run, a picture racing fans have seen many times.
Certainly, the welfare of a human being is going to be addressed at first.Velazquez lay motionless on the grass course before being put on a stretcher. Up an Octave's trainer Todd Pletcher was at his side.
Perhaps by then, a general consensus of Velazquez's injury would have been made, perhaps not. It was likely clear the jockey was somewhat alert and not in a life-threatening situation.
Meanwhile, Up an Octave, the third Todd Pletcher trainee of some reputation to break a leg in recent weeks (Manchurian and Queen's Plate hopeful Manor Lodge) was being destroyed.
Why do these headlines suggest (perhaps only to this corner) that Velazquez was injured because of something his horse did ("rolls on him") and why is it considered an after-thought that the horse was euthanized?
Thoroughbred racehorses are bred to run, it is what they know to do, and they will do it no matter what. They do not know when to stop, even if it hurts - a lot. It is also not the horse's decision to be in races every few weeks.
The men and women who ride these horses in the afternoons and in the mornings deserve and receive a lot of respect, it is a dangerous business. But how about some respect for our noble equine athletes who race their hearts out for us everyday?


  • At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Horse Racing is an extremely dangerous business. It's always a sad and difficult to see a horse go down. There is always that gasp followed by a shocking yell from the crowd. Both horse and human should be respected for the amount of courage they display in this risky business.

  • At 8:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Youre words have captured what many people believe. Maybe the whole industry will continue to become more aware of the horse's welfare. Certainly the move to polytrack surface, which seems to be safer, is a sign that we are concerned for both our riders and horses.

  • At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was happy to find your entry after much searching on the web for some compassionate remark about Up an Octave. Page after page I read only stated "Up an Octave was euthanized on the track." period
    I know nothing of horse racing but am an avid animal lover. I can only hope that this tragedy can bring more attention to the protection and care of these animals. And, from what I understand, the need for workman's comp for jockeys.
    May Up an Octave rest in peace.


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